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Keeping Bus Drivers Sober

On Thursday, we published an editorial regarding school bus drivers who operate their vehicles while intoxicated. It originated from the DUI arrest of a school bus driver in East Liverpool.

Later that same day, we received the report of serious crash in Kanawha County — caused by an intoxicated school bus driver, according to police. Fortunately, only two passengers on the bus received minor injuries, but two other people were hurt.

As we noted on Thursday, both West Virginia and Ohio have laws aimed specifically at preventing DUI by school bus drivers. Clearly, they are not enough.

One West Virginia Board of Education rule has a deterrent effect. It stipulates that all school bus drivers “shall be subject to pre-employment, random, post-accident and reasonable suspicion drug testing for the use of certain controlled substance and alcohol…”

How counties handle that may vary. Here in Ohio County, the system appears to function well in terms of drivers having no foreknowledge they will be tested for alcohol and other drugs. Obviously, that must be the case in every one of the 55 school systems.

State policy is silent on how often random testing should be conducted. Once a year may not be enough. Perhaps state Board of Education members or legislators should consider requiring the tests more frequently.

Thursday’s school bus crash in Kanawha County, within sight of the state Capitol, could have been much more serious than it was. One car involved was engulfed in flames. Fortunately, bystanders braved the fire to rescue a passenger in it.

Not all people who drink too much, then get behind the wheel, are alcoholics — but some are. Because alcoholism is a disease, it is difficult to deter those who suffer from it from drinking and driving. That puts more of a burden on preventive steps such as random testing to keep intoxicated men and women from operating school buses.

Perhaps the random testing requirement for school bus drivers should be strengthened, then. And school officials should be encouraged actively to make use of the “reasonable suspicion” testing provision.

We expect much from school bus drivers. If it takes a harsh enforced sobriety policy to keep our children safe, so be it.

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