After Carollton crash, school bus safety changed forever

CINCINNATI - The I-71 bus crash in Kentucky that killed 27 people, mostly children, returning from Kings Island on May 14, 1988 after a church trip prompted several legislative changes related to bus transportation.

One of the most immediate results involved bus construction and safety.

Days after the crash, then-Kentucky Governor Wallace Wilkinson formed the Governor's Task Force on School Bus Safety to examine buses and make recommendations for safety enhancements.

In the Carrollton incident, a Meade County Schools school bus had been sold to a church in Radcliff, Kentucky. A pickup truck traveling northbound on I-71 in the southbound lanes struck the bus head on. Most of the victims ended up trapped in the bus after it caught fire.

By July 1988, the Kentucky Legislature approved a number of changes recommended by the committee that were signed into law by Gov. Wilkinson. Twenty-five years later, the recommendations remain law.

Below is a list of some of the recommendations from the task force.

  1. Suspension of the purchase of any gasoline powered school buses to be used to transportation of Kentucky public school children.
  2. Development of a timeline for the retirement of all gasoline powered school buses from the state school bus fleet. 
  3. Adoption of a left side emergency door for emergency exit.
  4. Placement of up to 4 (four) push out windows on full size school buses for emergency egress.
  5. Retrofit of push out windows on existing fleet.
  6. Body side intrusion testing on all new buses purchased for use in Kentucky.
  7. Use of fire-block upholstery. 
  8. Initiate the use of fire resistant flooring.
  9. Placement of roof hatches on Kentucky school buses for egress in rollover incidents.
  10. Placement of heavier axles and larger brakes on all school buses sold in Kentucky.
  11. Mandatory training for all public school bus inspectors.
  12. Monthly school bus inspections.
  13. Ban on the use of gasoline powered school buses on out of district trips.
  14. Increase initial training requirement for Kentucky public school bus drivers from eighteen (18) to twenty-four (24) hours.
  15. Require ongoing motor vehicle record and criminal record checks for all school bus drivers.
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