Safe Transport of Students At Risk: WCBOE Quietly Pays Speeding Tickets of Bus Drivers
At its January 11, 2022 board meeting, the Wicomico County Board of Education was presented with the material fact that the safe transport of K-12 students is at risk. Several vehicles including multi-passenger vans and school buses received speeding tickets. In filing a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request to obtain information shielded from the public, it was discovered that there were 41 speeding violations totaling $1,640.00 that were paid for by the WCBOE using taxpayer dollars. Here is what was presented at that meeting:
Some citizens are unaware that the WCBOE has a Transportation Division that manages the school system's bus routes and transportation, of which they have a number of their own fleet vehicles that are used for facility maintenance, special education, food services, administrators, and passenger transport. Most of the transportation for our students are subcontracted to bus companies and independent owner-operators. If subcontractors were to receive moving violations while transporting our kids, nobody would never know. Such infractions could not be obtained from the records of the school. The exhibits in this article is limited to WCBOE vehicles and their drivers. Here are just a few examples below showing the speed on the left. Example: "47 in a 35"
You can download a copy of the speeding violations here. You can download a copy of the van and bus inventory here. You can download a copy of the general vehicle inventory here. You can download a copy of the fleet liability self-insurance certificate here.
You can see that some of the passenger vehicles and buses had multiple speeding violations. Of these violations, they were all caught by speed camera. Have you ever seen law enforcement pull over a speeding school bus? You most likely won't, because many officers don't want to deal with the political backlash for pulling over a passenger bus that operates for a municipality. Therefore, many turn a blind eye. Meanwhile, children are at risk. As a result, the identified speeding violations in this article only account for a fraction of such occurrences. We can only speculate that even more speeding violations have occurred with bus contractors and situations where observed violations have not been enforced. This is a problem of public safety. Who hasn't witnessed a speeding bus? Some fly down the road quite often. Because of their size, they're hard to miss.
In the FOIA response, the information officer of the school system added a note that employees had to reimburse the WCBOE for the speeding violations. Mysteriously, there appears to be a payment for the speeding violation, but no visible record of these reimbursements in the school system's check register. Where did these funds go? That's another story.
This article is by no means an attack on bus drivers, but simply pointing out an issue that needs to be addressed. Wicomico County is blessed to have amazing school bus drivers, contractors, and independent owner-operators that take pride in their business, love children, and love what they do for a living. I believe that most of our bus drivers take safety very seriously and go above and beyond to ensure the safe transport of our students.
The solution is for the WCBOE to:
Slow the buses down and to enforce the posted speed limit.
Equip our buses with GPS and route tracking if not already equipped. We can then log the maximum speed, route progress, and location of our students while in transit.
Make decisions regarding drivers with multiple infractions, such as requiring a remedial safety course.
Make sure that speeding violations are not paid with taxpayer dollars.
More accountability, transparency, and an expectation of better management by our Director of Transportation as there is no margin of error when it comes to overseeing safety.
Darren Lombardo, Candidate
Wicomico County Board of Education At Large
January 15, 2022 Copyright DelmarvaPTC.org