People in their 80s should not be driving NJ school buses (Opinion)
It had to be terrifying for the young kids trying to get to Mount Horeb Elementary School in Warren. Thursday morning their bus driver, a person 80 years old, became disoriented and never delivered them to the school. The driver ended up not in Warren but in Bridgewater and the bus was reported missing. The whereabouts of the 20 young kids onboard unknown.
This octogenarian driver ended up crashing in a parking lot some 5 miles from where they were supposed to be. Luckily no one was injured when the bus hit a parked vehicle. School officials and Warren police issued a joint statement saying a “medical incident” was the cause of the disorientation.
Look, I feel for the driver. But I feel more for the kids and their parents. This had to be beyond frightening. And it easily could have been deadly. I find it despicable that New Jersey allows people this age to operate school buses with children’s lives at stake. I understand there’s a school bus driver shortage. Having low standards isn’t the way to solve it.
Could a medical episode happen to younger drivers? Absolutely. Is it as likely? No.
When people are in their 80s or even 90s they are already past their life expectancy. Is it wise to have them bearing such responsibilities? Sure, a younger person could suffer a heart attack while driving too. But when you’re beyond your life expectancy it’s obviously more likely.
Sure, school bus drivers over 75 must have a physical twice a year. But there is also the fact that one’s mental acuity and reaction time can go downhill quickly at this age. A physical won’t necessarily gauge how sharp a driver still is.
Anyone recall the horrific example of Hudy Muldrow?
He was the 77-year-old school bus driver taking fifth-graders on a field trip to Waterloo Village. He tried to make an illegal u-turn across a highway and put the bus perpendicular to oncoming traffic. He caused a gruesome wreck that injured many of the students leaving carnage and bodies strewn across the highway and taking the life of a ten-year-old girl and a teacher.
He was sentenced to ten years in prison. You’ll never convince me his age didn’t play into his utter incompetence.
We can drag our feet all we want about the problems we have with elderly drivers in general. Fine. Do nothing. Look the other way. But when young lives by the dozens are involved it’s time New Jersey talks about a mandatory retirement age for school bus drivers.
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Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski only.
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