Questions about intervention and notification of law enforcement have arisen in the weeks following the much-publicized collision allegedly caused by a New York school bus driver who was found to have a blood alcohol content level of 0.17 — four times the legal limit for a CDL holder.
Julynn Criscuolo, who recently resigned from the Wayne Central School District, has been charged with felony second-degree vehicular assault and several vehicle and traffic violations including driving while ability impaired by a combination of drugs and alcohol, reckless driving, failure to keep right and consumption of alcohol.
After the Oct. 30 accident that seriously injured Candace Aldrich, 60, Criscuolo was arraigned in Macedon Town Court and remanded to the Wayne County Jail on $50,000 cash or $100,000 bond. Her next scheduled appearance in court is Nov. 26.
Wayne Central School District in New York issued a statement about how officials handled the incident involving Criscuolo, who was pulled from her route when the transportation director suspected she was inebriated — but not before her first afternoon run.
“Unfortunately, before Ms. Criscuolo was removed she had completed the high school/middle school afternoon bus run. A substitute driver replaced Ms. Criscuolo on the bus and performed the (later) bus run. We are grateful that all students were transported home unharmed while we were working to replace her with a substitute bus driver,” according to the statement.
The statement recounted that attempts to secure on-site BAC testing were unsuccessful, so a district employee transported Criscuolo to the test facility. After the tests were completed, the same staff member dropped off Criscuolo at her residence. Final blood test results have not been reported, so it remains unknown whether she already had a BAC of 0.17 or drank more before getting behind the wheel.
“It is extremely unfortunate that Ms. Criscuolo chose to leave her residence and get behind the wheel of her car. Macedon police allege that while in an intoxicated condition from alcohol and prescription pain medication, Ms. Criscuolo was southbound on NYS Route 350 when she crossed into the northbound traffic lane and struck a vehicle being driven by Ms. Aldrich,” district officials stated.
Although management followed district policy and procedure, officials said the Board of Education would make it a priority to review its policy for personnel, especially in the area of law enforcement notifications.
At the Wayne Central School Board meeting held earlier this month, board President Phil McTigue questioned why school administrators waited to intervene by removing Criscuolo and why they waited to contact police after her blood tests. He said the police report stated there was an opportunity to get the driver off her bus before she could drive kids home, which the local NBC station also confirmed upon receiving this report.
“There is very legitimate criticism for not involving law enforcement sooner in this process. Law enforcement should have been contracted earlier,” said McTigue to the angry parents who attended the meeting.
Winship Wheatley, an attorney and transportation consultant who has more than 30 years of management experience in the student transportation industry, said the case has raised some important questions.
“The question is whether the school district or commercial operator has a duty to contact law enforcement about implementation of a reasonable-suspicion blood test,” noted Wheatley. “After this test is completed, should the next call be to law enforcement?”
While requirements may vary from state to state, he suggested they are worth revisiting in light of the frequency of DWI incidents.
“The real bottom line is that all of us need to review our procedures and make sure we are up to speed on reasonable-suspicion drug testing tolerance levels,” added Wheatley.
The New York Association for Pupil Transportation also urged school boards and school leadership to review relevant local policies given that questions remain about how this latest incident was communicated to law enforcement officials. In its statement, NYAPT also said it would offer recommendations to its members accordingly.
“It is inexcusable for a professional and CDL-licensed school bus driver to have driven her personal vehicle later that day with a reported BAC level that was four times the legal limit for a CDL holder,” NYAPT stated. “We are further saddened that such actions resulted in a head-on collision with another vehicle that caused serious injuries to another innocent person.”