INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Indianapolis Metropolitan Police say the man who caused a violent crash involving an Indianapolis Public Schools bus should not have been driving at all.
IMPD says Jeffery Twitty, 45, had no driver’s license and a warrant for parole violation when he rear ended a pickup truck at the intersection of 38th and Sheridan on the northeast side just before 9 a.m. The rear-end impact pushed the pickup into the path of an oncoming IPS bus. Indianapolis Fire Department Battalion Chief Rita Reith said the bus driver was unable to avoid hitting the pickup.
“Once the bus made contact with the black truck, it took the bus off the road about 300 yards,” Reith said.
William Newell, who witnessed the crash, said the bus went airborne over a ditch when it ran off 38th Street.
“She totally dove clean across the ditch on the church parking lot,” Newell said. “She took out a steel pole, bunch of steel cables, steel beams. I don’t know how anybody, I don’t know how she made it out of that bus alive.”
The bus, which was on the way to Shortridge High School, crashed into several parked work vans in the parking lot of a Mexican restaurant. Behind the bus, there was a trail of debris and tire tracks dug into grass.
IFD officials say the bus driver, the pickup driver, and one 16-year old student on the bus were transported to a hospital for minor injuries. Thirteen other students on the bus were checked out as a precautionary measure.
Twitty was arrested on the scene by IMPD officers.
Although the crash did not involve serious injuries, State Rep. Tony Cook, (R-Dist. 32), says it points to an increasing number of school bus crashes as metropolitan areas continue to grow and traffic becomes more congested. Cook has drafted a bill for the 2017 legislative session that would require Indiana school districts to install three-point harness seat belts on all new buses added to their fleets.
While Cook agrees that school buses without seat belts are still the safest way to transport students, he says buses without seat belts put students in unnecessary danger in any kind of rollover crash.
“There’s no protection against being thrown against the ceiling or the floor, or the metal stanchions that attach to the floor for the seats,” Cook said.
Several similar attempts to require school bus seat belts have failed at the state level. Conflicting data over the real safety benefits has sparked debate over the years. The common sticking point is the cost of installing the safety devices, which runs anywhere between $7,000 and $10,000 per bus. Cook’s bill would not require school districts to install seat belts in buses all at once. The seat belts would be installed as new buses are brought into the fleet.
“I’m looking at whether we can come up with some kind of matching grants, state funding with that,” Cook said. “Maybe on a 50 percent basis.”
IPS spokesperson Kristen Cutler said the district already has seat belts in about 100 of the 130 buses owned and operated by IPS. The district also contracts about 300 buses from Durham Student Services, which do not have seat belts installed.
The bus involved in Wednesday morning’s crash was one of the Durham buses and did not have seat belts.