Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced the creation of a School Bus Safety Working Group following the death of 11-year-old Aiden Clark.
Clark was killed on Aug. 22, when another vehicle collided with his Northwestern Local School District school bus. The school bus did not have seatbelts installed for the students, and Clark was reportedly ejected when the bus rolled over. He died at the scene, and 23 other students were injured, one critically.
The other vehicle’s driver, Hermanio Joseph, 35, appeared in court this week and is facing a charge of aggravated vehicular homicide. He had no valid driver’s license, only a state identification card. He has pleaded not guilty.
The crash has promoted renewed interest in lap/shoulder seatbelts on school buses, especially in the state of Ohio, where some school districts have added safety restraint systems voluntarily. Following the crash, the National Association of Pupil Transportation called on federal agencies to clarify their positions on, and the potential efficacy of lap/shoulder seatbelts inside the school buses.
However, DeWine is looking to take matters into Ohio’s hands. According to a press release, the Ohio School Bus Safety Working Group will examine topics including, but not limited to the following:
- School bus regulations
- School bus design, maintenance, and inspections
- Driver licensing, certification, and training
- School bus safety technology
- Crash risk factors
- Lessons learned from other school bus crashes
- Alternative transportation and associated risks
- School bus seatbelts
- Safety of special populations
- Critical incident protocol
“There is always more that can be done when it comes to the safety of children, and I believe we have an obligation to take a holistic look at the safety of our school buses,” DeWine stated. “This group’s review will be thorough, focusing on many different aspects of transportation safety.”
On Wednesday, he announced the members of the group, including representatives from the Ohio Department of Public Safety, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Ohio Department of Transportation, Ohio School Bus Mechanics Association, Ohio Department of Education, a school bus driver, other interested parties, and a parent advocate.
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DeWine added in the release that the first public meeting will take place next month and recommendations are expected to be issued before the end of the year.
Also on Wednesday, DeWine visited the Mentor Public School District’s bus garage in northeast Ohio, where he met with inspectors from the Ohio State Highway Patrol to review and observe the school bus inspection process.