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School bus driver in fatal crash had suspended license

The school bus driver received his letter back in September from the state Motor Vehicle Administration, informing him he was "no longer authorized" to operate his school bus, and that his license could be revoked if he didn't give authorities a medical clearance permitting him to drive.

But he didn't take that action, and the Maryland agency failed to let the Baltimore City school district know that his license was in jeopardy. Therefore, the school bus driver was able to carry 17 special needs and homeless children back and forth from school for months without a valid license.

In fact, his lapse was only revealed when he rammed the school bus he was piloting into a transit bus. The school bus driver and five adults died in the accident. The day following the multiple fatality collision, the school system finally got the alert.

This flagrant omission put students and countless others at risk for far too long, what perhaps is most worrisome is that this wasn't the first time his commercial driver's license had been suspended due to missing medical certification.

Authorities report that the school bus driver was traveling at high speeds when he first hit the rear of a Mustang in Southwest Baltimore, then crossed over the center line and slammed into the Maryland Transit Administration bus on Nov. 1. According to some who witnessed the aftermath, it looked like a bomb had detonated. There were no skid marks to indicate the school bus driver had attempted to stop prior to impact.

While probing into the driver's background, investigators learned that two years ago, the man wrecked a Buick LeSabre in Ellicott City by striking a guardrail. According to police, his wife told them at the time that her husband took pills to control seizures.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has safeguards in place intended to make sure commercial drivers are mentally and physically fit to carry out their driving duties. For the past two years, the FMCSA has had requirements in place stating that specially trained medical professionals must examine and certify these drivers. The medical certificates must be kept on file at each state's MVA.

Families of those killed in similar circumstances may decide to take legal action against the individuals and entities responsible for the loss of their loved ones.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "MVA system didn't alert Baltimore schools that bus driver in fatal crash had lost his privileges," Scott Dance and Pamela Wood, Nov. 05, 2016

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