The New York Association for Pupil Transportation expressed deep concern about the actions of a school bus driver who authorities claim passed out at the wheel and crashed his bus into a home in Syosset, N.Y., earlier this week.
Nassau County police said the injured driver was under the influence of alcohol. Five children between the ages of 5 and 9 were on the bus but did not sustain any injuries, according to local news reports.
The driver, Frederick Flowers, faces aggravated DWI charges because children were in the vehicle as well as child endangerment and reckless driving charges. Flowers pleaded not guilty at a hospital arraignment, and bail was set at $50,000. His attorney said he was investigating the circumstances of the arrest.
"We are grateful that none of the children involved in this incident were injured and are safe at home with their families," read a statement from NYAPT, which represents state student transportation professionals at every level.
The association stressed that the district staff who oversee and manage school transportation services statewide work hard to ensure that every school bus is safe and that every school bus driver is properly prepared to drive children to school each day.
"The school bus drivers in our state are trained and dedicated to the safety of the children on their school buses. Sadly, the actions of this one school bus driver — if proven true – will have a tarnishing effect on our record of safety for the more than 2.3 million children who ride yellow school buses to and from school each day," NYAPT added.
The association said it wants parents and the general public to know that all school districts and school bus operators carefully screen bus driver candidates to preclude incidents like the recent crash. These precautions include conducting criminal background checks for all bus drivers, observing driver behavior daily, performing random drug and alcohol tests per federal regulations and training bus drivers on proper practices and conduct.
"We commend the more than 50,000 school bus drivers in our state who diligently carry out their duties for our children and deliver them to school and back home again every day," stated NYAPT. "They deserve our recognition and gratitude for their fine service to the children."