The school year got off to a tragic start in the small community of Byron, Minn., when Deianerah "D.J." Logan, 17, was killed after driving into the back of a school bus. The state director of pupil transportation safety said the effects of this tragedy reach far beyond the city limits, county or state lines.
Lt. Brian Reu of the Minnesota State Patrol (pictured at left) said the investigation revealed that, at the time of the crash, Logan had been composing a text message.
"This horrible incident is tragic reminder about the dangers of distracted driving," said Reu.
In Minnesota, it is illegal for any motorist to compose an electronic message, for example texting, while operating a motor vehicle. Reu also told School Transportation News that it is also against the law for drivers under the age of 18 or who hold a provisional driver's license from using a cell phone for any reason except in an emergency situation.
At the beginning of each school year, the Reu said the Minnesota State Patrol reminds drivers to take appropriate actions in and around school buses.
"While we typically don't conduct enforcement saturations focused on school buses, we do preform distracted driving saturations targeting all drivers," he added.
The Minnesota State Patrol also visits high schools and driver training classes to provide a presentation on the leading causes of motor vehicle crashes: speed, distracted driving, driving while impaired, and not wearing seatbelts. This presentation is geared to younger audiences and starts with a video featuring testimonies of teens who were involved in fatal crashes.
Earlier this month, researchers at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute called for mandatory under-ride guards on school buses following an Oct. 9 incident, in which a Brighton (N.Y.) High School student driving three friends plowed into the back of a school bus. NHTSA implemented under-ride regulations for heavy-duty trucks and tractor trailers in 1999 but has yet to make them a requirement for school buses. The National Congress on School Transportation in 2005 passed a resolution asking NHTSA to study the number of crashes stemming from a school bus that was stopped or was slowing down and motorists traveling behind react too late and crash into the rear.
NHTSA is currently investigating under-ride guards on single trucks and commercial buses, but Bob Riley, executive director of NASDPTS, told STN that the administration has said that the investigation does not include school buses because of the additional concern of passenger safety within the school bus.