District 15 bus driver suspended after near-miss with bus carrying high school students
A Palatine Township Elementary District 15 bus driver received a five-day unpaid suspension for veering off a thoroughfare on a yellow light and winding up in a parking lot after avoiding another bus carrying high school students, according to documents and Superintendent Scott Thompson.
Thompson said the "serious incident" that happened about 7:30 a.m. Jan. 15 at Dundee and Hicks roads in Palatine will be used to remind the district's bus drivers of basic safety lessons they have received as part of their employment. He said the bus drivers are expected to be defensive on the road.
"We have examined our safety procedures and training to ensure they are as comprehensive as possible," Thompson said. "With 560 routes being driven a day -- nearly 10,000 annually -- we want to take every precaution to make sure our drivers are trained in techniques, expectations and procedures to ensure the safety of the children we transport."
About 30 students were headed to Palatine High School on the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 bus, spokesman Tom Petersen said. Thompson said no children were on the District 15 bus that was en route to pick up students.
District 15's investigation shows its bus was traveling east on Dundee near Hicks and that District 211's bus was on the westbound side of the intersection to go south to Palatine High, according to documents obtained through a Daily Herald open-records request.
"At some point, the light turned yellow," says the letter of reprimand and suspension to the driver from Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Lisa Nuss. "You made the decision to proceed through the intersection, estimating that you did not have enough time to stop. "However, at that time the other school bus attempted to make a left-hand turn through the intersection. In order to avoid a collision, you swerved to avoid hitting the bus, went through the intersection. You were able to maneuver the bus to avoid hitting any other vehicles; however, in doing so your bus went over a curb and into a parking lot. After this accident, you proceeded with your route."
No injuries were reported. District 211 Superintendent Dan Cates issued a statement to the Daily Herald on the incident with the District 15 bus.
"Each day, nearly 200 District 211 buses and vans travel about 8,000 miles transporting approximately 9,000 students," Cates said. "The safety of our students is our top priority. Our conscientious safety training and oversight has been improved this year through the installation of the latest GPS technology enabling us to monitor the course and speed of every bus, and this technology aided in our investigation of this instance. We are all grateful that no injuries occurred."
Palatine police Cmdr. William Nord said a police report was not filed. The District 15 board approved the suspension, which was served late last month.
District 15 officials met with the driver after witness reports were received, documents show. The bus driver did not file a required report with the district.