FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX 56) — Kentucky tightened school bus safety laws after a deadly crash in Carroll County in 1988. Any parent who received that stomach-churning call of the crash in Magoffin County will wonder what could have been done to prevent this kind of accident.
“We don’t put anybody on the road that’s not ready,” Elisa Hanley told FOX 56.
Hanley is the Pupil Transportation Branch Manager for the Kentucky Department of Transportation. While investigators are still working to understand what caused the Magoffin bus crash, Hanley explained how the training for drivers and overall safety features onboard have improved over the years.
“We have rollover features on the school bus which helps keep the roof intact which helps keep the body intact when there is an accident,” Hanley said.
Since the deadly 1988 crash that killed 27 people, Kentucky school buses have added more emergency exits, no longer use gasoline, cage their fuel tanks, and have fire-resistant seating. However, seat belts do remain optional for districts on new buses.
FOX 56 confirmed the bus involved in the Magoffin crash did not have seat belts. In addition, bus drivers receive extensive training beyond just getting a commercial license to drive.
“Whether they are new or not to CDL, they get the same training and most of our school districts go way above and beyond what is required by KDE,” Hanley said.
This includes 21 hours of combined classroom and behind-the-wheel training and drivers must have an annual physical.
“We train on first aid, we train on pupil behavior management and many other areas that you would not think of,” Hanley said.
But as for the road where the accident occurred, officials said it is an area where a guardrail has been considered, but the idea’s been met with infrastructure challenges. Hanley said bus routes change from year to year depending on their conditions.
“I think it’s really important for parents and just the general public to understand that we don’t go down certain roads for reasons such as road deterioration,” Hanley said.