Letcher County school officials will soon be able to tell if and when school bus drivers are breaking the speed limit while transporting students.
Members of the Letcher County Board of Education were told recently that 52 speed detectors — one for each bus now in operation — will be installed during the coming Christmas break.
Assistant Supt. Twyla Messer said the devices are sold by Seon, a leading manufacturer of video surveillance equipment for school buses, at a cost of about $135 each. She said the devices would work with other Seon monitoring equipment that is already installed on each of the buses.
Messer expects the speed monitoring devices to be a plus when handling complaints the school receives about drivers who allegedly speed while entering and leaving narrow hollow roads.
“I know you guys get lots of complaints about speeding,” Messer told the board members. “… Hopefully this will eliminate some of your phone calls.”
Messer said that in addition to giving the school officials a powerful tool to monitor a bus driver’s safety performance, the devices will also protect drivers from people who may simply dislike a driver and file false complaints in hopes the driver will lose his or her job.
“A lot of the time people are upset with a driver,” she said. “Now if we get a complaint we can pull the hard drive” and check the actual speed of the bus.
According to Messer, the school district “probably gets an average of five (complaints) a day.” She cautioned board members that while buying and installing the detectors “seems like a little simple thing,” the matter will become somewhat com- plicated when it comes to developing “policy and procedure” that will determine how drivers who are caught speeding will be disciplined.
Among the questions that will have to be answered is “how many times are we going to allow you to speed before we let you go,” Messer said.
The Letcher school district began the process of buying the speed detectors well before a tragic school bus wreck in Chattanooga, Tennessee left six elementary school students dead and 25 others injured. A 24-year-old Chattanooga bus driver who was speeding on a narrow road caused that wreck, which occurred November 21.
Messer said the district’s decision to spend $7,020 to monitor speeding drivers shows that Supt. Tony Sergent “has made a commitment to the safety of our students.”
“We have excellent drivers,”
Messer added. “… We just want to make sure that everyone is safe.”
In a related matter, the school board voted last week to authorize Supt. Sergent’s request that the district be permitted to spend $341,384 on four new school buses — two Cummins ISB Freightliners (250 horsepower engine; 279- inch wheelbase) at $97,919 each; one manufactured by General Motors (155 horsepower engine; 139- inch wheelbase) at $69,259, and one GM with a lift (155 horsepower engine; 159- inch wheelbase) at $76,287. Each bus has air-conditioning installed.
Sergent said the purchases put the district’s “bus fleet on track” to stay with its plan of not having a bus “older than 14 or 15 years old” on the road.
“We don’t need buses on the road older than 15 years old — we just don’t,” agreed Board Chairman Will Smith.