School leaders stress school bus safety after recent fatality

Posted by Bryan Henry  -  bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - With 18,000 children riding buses to and from school everyday in Montgomery County, safety is a really big deal to Willie James.

James is the shop foreman for the Montgomery County School Transportation Department. A simple but very important reminder to kids when they get off the bus.

"If they go across the street, the arm will extend. The kids are to walk the length of the arm and then go around it and get across," said James.

At this point during the unloading, it is the driver's responsibility to count the heads and make sure without a doubt that everyone has crossed in front of the bus.

"If they don't add up, the drivers are instructed to shut the bus down.. lock it down," said James.

Much like the Montgomery County school bus,  the Covington County school bus involved in the fatal accident did in fact have the 5 and a half foot safety arm extended.

Even today nearly a week after 8-year old Lexie Worrells died.. investigators are still trying to figure out just what happened.

So many unanswered questions.

"As the arm was swinging back towards the bus, the victim was walking along the arm and went in an area out of the driver's eyesight," said Florala Police Chief Sonny Bedsole.

WSFA 12 News has learned Lexie Worrells did have hip and back surgeries and one school of thought is that may have slowed her walk somewhat to get across.  Police say they do not anticipate any charges against the driver.

Back at the Montgomery County school bus yard, buses have what you might call panoramic mirrors attached to the front of the bus.. just like the bus in Covington County. The newer buses today have a sleek hood with a gentle slope. This provides a much better view for the school bus driver, dramatically reducing the chance of striking the child.

"With these mirrors you can look down directly in front of the bus," said James.

James says Montgomery County has around 253 school buses and more than 160 drivers.

Bright yellow buses.. red flashing lights.. arms extended and vigilance. Safety is always the lesson of the day considering all the human cargo getting on and stepping off.

School bus drivers in Alabama are required to take a 4-hour training course every year. The driver in Florala did pass his annual test one week before the accident, according to police.

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