School bus accidents on busy highway has St. Landry considering other pick-up locations
St. Landry Parish school officials are discussing the possibility of eliminating a federal highway student bus route that has presented the District with child safety concerns due to numerous accidents.
Transportation manager Rebecca Beard expressed her concerns last week about continuing to safely operate school buses along U.S. 190 west of Opelousas and asked Transportation Committee members to consider providing other locations where students could board and unload.
Beard told Transportation Committee members that in recent years vehicles have initiated at least seven collisions along Highway 190 and caused injuries to students who were aboard buses operated by the school system.
District-driven buses have been frequently rear-ended by motorists traveling west of Opelousas, with one of the incidents causing at least one severe student injury in 2022, Beard said.
“Over the last few years buses that we own have had 10 rear end accidents with our buses. None of them were the fault of (District) drivers. All but three wrecks between our buses and vehicles occurred between Opelousas Lawtell and west of both areas,” Beard explained.
Three of the buses involved in the collisions were considered by insurance adjusters to be unsalvageable and frequently individuals causing the accidents were determined to be driving without vehicle insurance, according to Beard.
“I want to know if this is something that we can look into and have (board members) come up with a plan for 190,” Beard said.
Buses operated on the 190 routes by the District west of Opelousas load and unload students on both sides of the highway.
However students are not being required by bus operators to cross the four lanes of the roadway to enter or leave buses, said board member Raymond Cassimere.
“None of our students are walking whatsoever along 190,” Beard said.
Cassimere, a retired District high school principal, has also driven St. Landry school system buses. Cassimere said that he is aware of the safety issues associated with the Lawtell-Opelousas area route along 190.
Beard said the District has also eliminated picking up and dropping off Highway 190 student passengers on routes east of Opelousas.
Board member Anthony Standberry, whose election district includes portions of Opelousas and the Lawtell area, suggested developing drop off and collection points for students that would be located away from the high volume traffic along 190.
“We would like to get some participation from our parents for helping us with these drop off points, which could be at stores, businesses or even churches or some main locations,” Standberry said.
Some parents, Standberry said, have complained that it would represent a hardship for them to drive their children to more centralized locations to wait for buses to arrive.
Standberry also suggested that Beard and her staff might want to identify the number of stops that buses are required to make west of Opelousas and the number of students who are riding daily to create a comprehensive plan.
Board member Hazel Sias said it might be necessary for the Board to adopt a policy which would create safer routes for the student buses west of Opelousas.
“If we wait for all of these parents to agree on what we should do, we will never get the 100 percent cooperation that we are going to need. What we need to do is make a policy and that will be the end of it,” said Sias.
Board member Kyle Boss said that the District does have an ongoing issue with bus transportation since many of the buses operate along either state or parish highways.
This article originally appeared on Opelousas Daily World: School bus accidents on highway has district looking for other options