Harrisburg passes school bus safety inspections after death of coach
HARRISBURG – Bus safety is especially important to Harrisburg R-VIII School District this year, following the death of a high school teacher in a bus accident in 2017.
Harrisburg received a 100 percent passing rate for all 11 of buses inspected by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. The buses carry around 250 students from the elementary, middle and high schools every school day.
Transportation director Cara Douglas, who is a bus driver herself, said it's important to make sure all buses are up to speed and passing inspections on a daily basis.
“I always tell our drivers it doesn’t matter how safe of a driver you are if you aren’t driving a safe bus,” she said.
High school teacher and coach Brian Simpson died while driving cross country athletes in September 2017. Five students were on the bus, but they evacuated through the roof hatch.
Douglas said she commended the girls for remembering bus safety at the time.
“It certainly reinforced how important safety is,” she said. “It was a huge shock to all of our district. We are still feeling the effects from that.”
Harrisburg’s bus safety programs have remained basically the same since the accident.
“We didn’t really have to make changes,” Douglas said. “It just heightened the awareness.”
Harrisburg’s 11 buses were only a small portion of the 12,000 inspected by the Missouri State Highway Patrol this year.
About 90 percent of the school buses were approved at the first inspection, according to Cpt. John Hotz, who is director of the patrol's Public Information Education Division.
“We do spot checks in the fall as well to make sure they are safe and transporting those children as safely as possible,” Hotz said.
Bus driver Michael Drews said he and his colleagues understand the importance of their job.
“We always say to be safe, be respectful and be responsible,” Drews said. “Pretty much everything we do on a bus falls into that perspective of keeping them [students] safe.”
Drews said he reminded his students of safety protocol this week, as it is National Bus Safety Week. Students in every grade completed several training sessions throughout the week to remind them of safety rules and tips.