JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – Johnson City will soon be able to better track the safety of its school buses. City commissioners recently approved a plan to put GPS devices on all 70 of the district’s school buses and vans beginning next school year.
“It concerns making the bus ride as safe as possible,” Johnson City Transit Director Eldonna Janutolo said.
As we’ve previously investigated, similar devices on school buses in Washington County helped that district crack down on speeders. It took some time and multiple investigations, most recently in January, for some of those Washington County school bus drivers to slow down, but they eventually did.
Unlike Washington County’s GPS system, Johnson City’s won’t send out speeding alerts, but Janutolo said the GPS’ will collect speed and other data that will help supervisors keep an even closer watch on Johnson City’s children.
“We’ve got lots of eyes and ears on school buses everywhere,” Janutolo said. “We monitor the speeds of buses on a regular basis and we do that manually, so this is just another way to keep track of things. It’s another layer.”
The devices won’t just track location and speed. Janutolo says they will also monitor the buses’ safety features like lights and stop signs and arms. In addition, they will keep tabs on engines to prevent breakdowns and will help better map routes.
Even with all of the benefits, Janutolo says she and her staff will continue to keep watch too.
“You can rely on reports all you want to, but it’s the driver’s knowing that we’re there, we’re constantly monitoring them, we’re constantly on the road,” she said. “There’s nothing like the human element.”
Jamie Trusty has full confidence in her daughter’s bus driver, but she says there’s always room for fear.
“Especially the way that this world’s going nowadays, anything can happen,” Trusty said.
The Johnson City mother knows a speeding Washington County bus driver crashed a bus with more than two dozen students on board in 2012, injuring several children. More recently, police say a Chattanooga bus driver drove well above the speed limit when he killed multiple students last year.
With all of that in mind, Trusty says she’s thankful her city is taking extra steps to protect her kids.
“I love it,” she said of the safety upgrade. “Not just like it. I love it.”
The GPS system will cost Johnson City $25,000 a year. Janutolo expects the devices will save the city up to $10,000 annually in efficiencies.
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