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Oldham County bus drivers, transportation officials receive Gold Safety Award

By Tracy Harris

While Oldham County Schools are well-known for academic success, the district is also being applauded for its transportation safety.

Ohio Casualty Insurance and Liberty Mutual Insurance presented its Gold Safety Award to transportation officials Nov. 27. 

The award recognizes the safety achievements of bus drivers, maintenance personnel and other drivers within the system during the past three years. 

Less than 2 percent of the schools insured by Ohio Casualty Insurance receive the award. Ohio Casualty insures almost half of the 174 public schools in Kentucky.

James Stewart, the district’s director of transportation, said Oldham bus drivers receive nearly double the training required by the Kentucky Department of Education.

The district has nearly 200 buses and more than 40 other vehicles and around 1.9 million miles each year.

According to Mike Peak, a loss prevention officer with Ohio Casualty, the district filed only 16 vehicle claims in the past three years, mostly consisting of minor incidents. 

The number of crashes dropped nearly 50 percent in the past three years, Peak said.

The district had seven claims during the 2009-10 school year, five crashes in 2010-11 school year and four in 2011-12.  

And, he noted the decline in crashes occurred while the number of miles increased. During the 2009 school year, it had 4.98 crashes per 1 million miles. During the 2010 school year, it dropped to 2.62 crashes per 1 million miles. It dropped again to 2.20 crashes per 1 million miles last year. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the national average of crashes per one million miles for commercial licensed drivers is 10.8. 

Statewide, there are 11,252 licensed school bus drivers. About 12 percent of Kentucky school bus drivers crashed during the 2011 school year — about 1,343 crashes.

Oldham County Schools has about 150 regular bus drivers and 25 substitute drivers. Fewer than 4 percent of the Oldham County drivers had crashes in the past three years. 

Stewart said the district pays close attention to all bus incidents but didn’t realize how the district compares to others across the state.

Stewart took over as transportation director in 2012, replacing Margaret Johnson.

A panel reviews all incidents that cause property or vehicle damage, Stewart said. Panel members recommend specific retraining for drivers if an incident is found to be the driver’s fault, he said.

“We hold drivers accountable and watch for patterns,” he said.

In general, he said, incidents with non-moving objects like poles and signs are usually the driver’s fault — but incidents with moving objects typically are not.

“We’re doing a lot to be aware,” Stewart said.

And the district’s insurers are noticing.

Peak recognized transportation leadership for playing a big role in the district’s attitude and commitment toward safety.

“Drivers are providing a safe environment while transporting your children and grandchildren,” Peak said. “Their paychecks are not the largest and praises are few.”

By the numbers

  • 1.9 million miles driven by Oldham County bus drivers per year
  • 7,000 students transported per day
  • 550 routes
  • 6:30 a.m. first pick up
  • 4:45 p.m. last drop off
  • 200 busses
  • 16 vehicle claims in three years
  • 5 incidents in 2011-12 school year
  • 150 regular bus drivers
  • 25 substitute drivers

Source: Oldham county schools and Ohio Casualty Insurance