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Semi Truck Collision with School Bus Kills Louisiana Child

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates, national car accident fatalities fell to 32,788 in 2010. While human losses have dropped 25 percent since 2005, this federal agency has continued to have growing concerns about child safety.

Following its mandate to promote highway safety, the NHTSA has promoted stricter regulations regarding child safety seats, pedestrian precautions and even special technologies geared to reducing injury risks for American children. However, traffic accidents remain the leading cause of death for our youngest citizens. While our nation's roads might be safer for most, the tragic auto crash at the end of last year in St. Landry Parish, La., reminds us that more must be done.

On the morning of December 3, 2010, a school bus was picking up students along its route on U.S. 190 between Port Barre and Opelousas. The bus, carrying children ages 5 to 17, stopped in the westbound right lane of the highway near the King's Truck Stop. With red lights and stop signs still activated and students boarded, the bus began to proceed down the highway when an 18-wheeler slammed into it. Of the 21 people on board that morning, 18 children and the bus driver were injured, three of them seriously. One child, a 5-year old girl, died as a result of injuries sustained in the bus crash.

Months after the crash, commercial trucker David Cox of Dallas was charged with negligent homicide of a minor. The Texas trucker was indicted and released on bond. In addition to the negligent homicide charges, Cox faces 21 other counts of negligent injury. For the homicide charge, Cox could face up to five years in prison. On each of the injury charges, he could be fined and incarcerated.

While the truck driver's fate is pending, many people in the Louisiana town where the accident occurred worry about the safety of their children. Even after the serious crash, the local school board continues to use the same route to transport its students. Trucks and cars continue to travel the popular highway at 65 miles per hour. Given so many variables and lack of interventions, another tragedy could easily happen on the very same roadway.

Reducing human loss must remain the focus of road safety initiatives. Child safety cannot be considered an ancillary component of this goal. Criminal penalties for negative driver behaviors are necessary. However, preventing these behaviors must continue to be a priority in order to save lives.

Source: KATC "Man Indicted for Negligent Murder in Bus Crash," Shawn Kline, 2/25/2011

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