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Crashes involving school buses increase in Anchorage

(KTUU)
Published: Feb. 6, 2020 at 3:33 PM AKST
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School buses are big, yellow and pretty hard to miss, but apparently that's not stopping Anchorage drivers from crashing into them. The Anchorage School District says these types of accidents are on the rise.

"It's been a couple of years since we've seen this kind of ratio, but it's not stopping," said ASD Senior Director of Transportation, Heather Philp. "Just in one day we had two rear-enders -- one in the morning, and one in the afternoon where the bus was stopped -- and somebody just ran into the back of the bus."

Since December there have been 15 crashes involving school buses. ASD says 13 of those have happened since students returned from break on January 6. Seven of the crashes had children on or around the bus, and according to ASD, these were all civilian caused.

"Those are probably our scariest because students are in the stairwell, or on the ground, and when a collision happens, even though we're large, you just don't know how the bus is going to react at that time," said Philp, "especially on roads that we have right now with the snow and the ice."

Thankfully no injuries to any children were reported, but aside from causing a scare, they also cost the district time and money. Each time a school bus is involved in an accident, the students must remain on the bus for as long as it takes police to investigate, and that could take up to two hours, according to ASD. Philp says it causes a ripple effect by putting not only the involved students behind schedule, but the following tiers as well.

"So It doesn't just impact the bus at the scene, it can impact hundreds of kids and hundreds of families, so it's a big deal for us. It's not something that is lightly taken. It's a safety issue. Kids, two hours on a bus -- it can be pretty intense for them."

ASD says most of these crashes have been caused by people sliding through intersections or rear-ending the buses. When a bus is damaged it can take the bus out of commission for up to three months.

ASD recently added 12 new buses to its fleet that come with several upgraded safety features, but no matter how safe a bus is, Philp says it's still important for surrounding drivers to stay vigilant.

"It doesn't matter how many lights you put on a bus. If the driver is complacent, they're just not going to see what's going on because they get into kind of that auto-mode."

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