May 7, 2014 - Commercial Vehicle Accidents

On April 21 a former school bus driver was sentenced to two years in prison for her part in a Feb. 14, 2013, accident in which she struck a vehicle and seriously injured a man with a commercial vehicle. At the time of the accident, the defendant was driving for a bus company charged with transporting children for the Port Jervis School District when she struck a 2005 Honda with her 2003 Freightliner bus while attempting to make a left turn.

A subsequent investigation revealed the presence of the prescription anti-anxiety drug Diazepam and morphine in the defendant’s blood stream at the time of the accident. Although the defendant had a prescription for the Diazepam, she later admitted to obtaining the morphine from someone other than a doctor.

Last December, the 32-year-old former school bus driver from Port Jervis, New York, pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and aggravated driving while ability impaired by drug. While she was out on bail awaiting sentencing she received an additional charge for possession of drug paraphernalia.

The Orange County New York Assistant Prosecutor sought a prison sentence of four years for the defendant due to the significance of the injuries the 19-year-old man in the Honda suffered. According to prosecutors, the man is still being treated for traumatic brain injuries and multiple broken bones. In addition to the 19-year-old victim there was an 11-year-old passenger on the bus during the accident, although the extent of that child’s injuries is unknown.

The judge accepted a plea agreement which requires the defendant spend two years in prison on the assault charge, with a concurrent one to three years sentence in county jail.

The victims and their family members have a right to know the extent of the background check the bus company performed regarding the defendant’s driving and training history prior to her employment. Those hiring procedures are vital because the terms of the defendant’s commercial driver’s license clearly forbid the presence of both of the substances found in the defendant’s system. The bus company might have some legal liability to the victims if it can be established that the bus company failed to ensure that the defendant was qualified to operate their vehicles.

Source: Times-Herald Record, “School bus driver from Port Jervis gets 2 years in prison after crash” Heather Yakin, Apr. 22, 2014

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