WDRB investigation finds JCPS bus drivers speeding on interstates and side roads across Louisville
WDRB used a laser speed detector to clock buses on main roads, side roads and interstates.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Louis Peters was going at least five times the posted speed limit mph earlier this year when he hit a family pulling out of an apartment complex in his JCPS bus.
That's according to LMPD officials who say the bus was doing at least 25 to 30 miles per hour in a 5 mile per hour zone.
The bus allegedly dragged the family's car 50 feet, and JCPS said Peters was distracted by screaming kids and heard a horn but didn't realize it was in front of him.
Hari Har Maharana said his wife was backing out of their apartment complex on their daughter's first day of school when the bus hit them. Maharana was in the passenger front seat and his daughter was in the backseat.
"I started honking continuously, and my wife was screaming louder," he said. "She couldn't understand, was crying, crying, crying."
A neighbor saw the bus and started recording.
After that incident and several others recorded and reported, a WDRB News investigation looked into the prevalence of speeding buses on interstates, main streets and interstates. We used the latest laser speed detector on the market, the same type police use, and we were trained by Debbie Aull with Stalker Radar.
We checked for speeding buses over five days in mornings and afternoons to and from school in September. Here's a few examples of what we found:
- A bus going 68 miles per hour on I-65 South near the University of Louisville campus, where the speed limit is 55
- A bus going 67 miles per hour on I-64 West at the Payne Street overpass
- Buses going 68 miles per hour and 67 miles per hour on the Watterson Expressway
- A bus going 45 miles per hour (10 miler per hour over the limit) on Newburg Road
John Stovall, President of Teamsters Local 783 that represents JCPS bus drivers, said the district is short 125 drivers, which means other drivers are picking up more routes.
"A lot of these drivers feel the need to hurry up and pick them up from school and get them home," he said. "The district has a policy of 30 or 40 minutes. No bus driver will be longer than that."
When asked the parts of town where bus drivers and drivers are speeding the most, he cited the area around Cane Run Road and Dixie Highway. That's where we found a bus in the area going 51 miles per hour in a 35-mile-per-hour zone. On Cane Run Road, we found five buses speeding over the limit in five days, one of which was going 21 miles per hour over the limit.
"If you ever go down Cane Run, everybody flies down," Stovall said. "I'm not saying it's an excuse. It's just the flow of traffic. If your are the only one doing the speed limit, you'd probably get run over."
On a section of Dixie Highway where the speed limit is 35, there were more speeding school buses, two of which were going at least 49 miles per hour. Our investigation found about 20 speeding school buses in five days, and we only counted buses going 10 miles over the limit and higher.
JCPS had 12 bus drivers cited for speeding since 2015, all of which received written warnings or reprimands. Records show the drivers going 10 miles per hour over and 22 miles per hour over, and while others were also speeding, JCPS didn't disclose by how much.
Frantz said there's GPS on all 900 of its route buses, but for speeding to be investigated, there must be a complaint.
"We appreciate the concerned community feedback and as we get them," he said. "We take each and every one of them very seriously, and again, we take the proper time to investigate properly."
The district caught two buses speeding in front of schools: 47 miles per hour in a 25-mile-per-hour zone in front of Watterson Elementary School and 45 miles per hour in a 35-miles-per-hour zone in front of the Walden School.
JCPS said a driver was cited for "traveling 69 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone." The district said "this is unacceptable" but didn't say where he was speeding.
"Our current system is a little passive," Frantz said. "We continue to investigate to find increased technology that can provide more real-time data and real- time updates."
In some areas, we didn't find bus drivers speeding or going much over, including a neighborhood street in Jeffersontown, on the Southpark Road Overpass, on I-65 South and I-265 in Floyd County, Indiana. We also put in an open records request with LMPD, but it said it doesn't track speeders based on vehicle type like a bus.
Stovall said the number of speeding bus drivers is low.
"I'd say less than five percent of it do it," he said. "A lot of times, it's because they're covering a run in the morning because someone called in sick."
Stovall said the solution to the buses speeding is hiring and retaining more drivers.
"If they drive exactly the speed limit, and everybody wants them to be safe, and they are, then you'll have a lot of kids waiting sometimes," he said, adding that sometimes drivers feel a need to rush to the bus stops, especially for the younger children who may be waiting out in the cold or rain.
JCPS said Peters resigned four days after his speeding bus accident, which was his ninth incident with the district. He couldn't be reached for comment.
JCPS warned him of his previous eight accidents since he was hired in 2010, saying "It's important that you aren't involved in any more accidents if you wish to remain a bus driver."
"They know he has done eight accidents, and still he's given the responsibilities to take these kids?" Maharana asked.
Those accidents included Peters "reading a magazine and hitting a car," a bus mirror hitting a pole and a crossing arm breaking off. Four of the accidents were deemed chargeable.
"That's a shame," Stovall said. "He was a good driver."
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