A collision between a public school bus and a pickup truck sent 10 Pittsylvania County, Virginia (VA), students to the hospital with injuries. State police have charged the elderly bus driver with causing the wreck.
According to news reports, the 83-year-old man behind the wheel of the bus caused the collision by failing to yield right of way while attempting to turn left from Oakland Drive onto Mount Cross Road in Danville. The driver had a stop sign in his direction, meaning he had a legal duty to wait until traffic cleared before leaving the side street.
The crash injured eight of the 18 Tunstall Middle School and Tunstall High School students aboard the bus. The 17-year-old pickup truck driver and a 15-year-old passenger also got transported from the scene of the accident to SOVAH Health-Danville. All the children are expected to survive. While witnesses described some of the bus riders being taken off while wearing neck braces, suggesting head and neck injuries, neither troopers nor medical staff released information on the nature of the students’ injuries.
Qualifying for a Virginia Department of Education-endorsed school bus driver’s license requires passing an annual physical exam, passing preemployment and random drug and alcohol tests, and being at least 18 years of age. Statistics and other information related to school bus specifications and accidents can be found on the VDOE website.
The state sets no maximum age for school bus drivers, but it does impose special license renewal requirements for anyone over the age 75. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles insists that elderly drivers appear in person, prove they have 20/40 vision in at least one eye and, upon a DMV official’s discretion, present a medical clearance for driving and pass a road test. A Virginia driver’s license issued to a resident older than 75 will generally be valid for five years. A DMV records check is a component of the school bus driver licensing process, so the 83-year-old man charged with causing the crash in Danville presumably holds a valid personal driver’s license.
Still, wrecks like this one that hospitalized 10 teens and tweens necessarily raise questions regarding how old is too old to drive, especially when the vehicle being driven is a public school bus. A dedicated Virginia personal injury lawyer would definitely ask those question of the bus driver, the school district, and the state licensing agencies. The answers could reveal negligence and provide evidence that the family’s hospital bills should be paid by the parties who put the school children at risk unnecessarily.