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Driver undergoes standard drug, alcohol testing

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The driver of the school bus that struck two Taylorsville Elementary School students Thursday has taken a drug and alcohol test, standard policy when there’s an accident or injury.

Dylan Graham, a substitute bus driver for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., took the test after completion of an on-site investigation of Thursday morning’s accident, which injured two children.

Graham is being provided access to counseling, said Karen Wetherald, transportation manager for the school district.

She said test results are pending and must indicate no traces of alcohol or drugs in order for a school bus driver to resume work.

The test is among many requirements of district bus drivers, including those to become certified to drive a bus and procedures they must follow in the event of an accident or emergency.

Graham had to go through many hours of classes and testing to become certified, just like Kim Fowler, the regular driver for the Taylorsville route who was on bereavement leave Thursday, Wetherald said.

She spelled out some of the requirements for drivers:

A potential driver must pass multiple tests at an Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles branch to get a learner’s permit for driving buses. Then, the person must attend and complete a three-day state-certified class. The next step is in-house training by the school district, which includes another qualified driver observing the prospective driver in action. Once the district believes the prospective driver has learned all that is necessary, the final step is for the person to take verbal and driving tests, including knowing the mechanical operations of a bus.

An experienced school district driver is required to attend two hours of safety classes each semester.

Drivers receive training on the proper procedure of stopping to pick up students. A driver is taught to turn on yellow flashing lights to alert other vehicles that the bus will be stopping. At the stop, the driver extends the red stop arm to halt traffic.

Drivers also are taught the point-and-motion technique for getting students on the bus. A driver is supposed to point at children to indicate that they have been seen. Then the driver motions for them to board the bus. This technique also is taught to elementary students at the beginning of the school year.

Bartholomew Consolidated also has an 11-step list of procedures that bus drivers must follow should an emergency occur.

As for students, they are informed to be at the stop five minutes early, so their bus driver can see them during an approach, Wetherald said.

She added she and several other school district personnel will analyze information from Thursday’s investigation and determine if there is anything that needs improvement.

“We need to make sure we are doing everything right,” Wetherald said.

The school district’s insurance policies, including for its bus fleet, are through Liberty Insurance, with Johnson-Witkemper acting as the local agent, said Pam Boles, the school district’s director of accounting.

The insurance company already has begun collecting information about the accident, she said.

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