SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Two school bus crashes on Thursday – one in Springfield and the other in Merriam Woods – serve as reminders about the importance of driver safety on school buses.

“When we hire a new driver, they go through anywhere from 40 to 80 hours of training, both in the classroom and out on the road,” Springfield Public Schools (SPS) Deputy Superintendent of Operations John Mulford said. “Then in addition, we provide support as they begin to drive routes where we usually have them with a trainer or another driver to kind of learn the ropes, so to speak.”

As of right now, there are 110 bus drivers in SPS for 110 routes. The district said it needs 120 to be fully staffed.

“We did have to reduce our transportation transportation eligibility last year and this year due to the number of drivers we have available to us,” Mulford said.

But, it’s important to the district to get students to and from school safely.

“When you consider the number of drivers and routes that we have, we have very few accidents each year,” Mulford said. “I think that speaks volumes to our drivers and how seriously they take their job and how safe they are when they drive.”

On Thursday, a Springfield district bus collided with a pick-up truck. The bus ended up hitting a tree.

“[The bus driver] was taken to hospital just to be checked out and observed,” Mulford said. “When we do have accidents, the vast majority of the time, it is not the fault of our drivers but a result of someone else driving in a distracted manner.”

SPS Parent Sara Barry said she was shocked to hear about two separate bus crashes in one day.

“After seeing the pictures of the one in Springfield, my gosh, it’s just terrifying to us to see that,” Barry said.

Barry drives her daughter to school since they live in driving distance. With the amount of crashes in town, she is cautious when hitting the road or when she sees a school bus.

“You want to drive as safe as possible around [buses] because there could be kids up and moving around, even though they’re not supposed to,” Barry said. “The bus drivers are under a lot of pressure.”

SPS said it’s important other drivers also watch out for buses on the road.

“In the mornings and in the late afternoons when buses are running, just be aware that those buses are out there,” Mulford said. “They’re hauling, you know, 30, 40, 50 kids. We want to keep those kids safe and we need your help to do that.”

KOLR10 also reached out to Branson Public Schools following the crash in Merriam Woods. The district has similar procedures for its bus drivers when compared to SPS.

“All of our bus drivers go through annual training as required by the State of Missouri, as well as ongoing training throughout the year so they are prepared for their daily operations as well as unexpected occurrences. Our bus fleet is also well-maintained and has annual inspections conducted to ensure we’re keeping our students and our drivers safe.” 

Superintendent Dr. Brad Swofford