Editorial: Reviewing bus safety in wake of Plamondon lawsuit
Published: Friday, September 20, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 19:09
It made statewide news earlier this week when Connecticut agreed to pay $4 million to the parents of David Plamondon, a UConn student who died after being hit by a university bus on March 22, 2011. Since UConn is a public university and the driver was technically a public employee, the money is being paid by the state. The driver, UConn student Lukasz Gilewski, was sentenced to six months in jail, suspended, followed by two years of probation, which ends next year.
The debate over whether the $5.5 million total lawsuit payment (the other $1.5 million being paid by the state’s insurance company) is too much, too little, or just right is a thorny ethical issue – one which we will not wade into now. The other important issues to focus is on are student safety, driver safety, and ensuring that such a tragic event never occurs again.
Indeed, UConn has taken concrete steps in that direction, such as installation of the “Safe Turn Alert.” Though they frequently annoy students, the “Pedestrians, bus is turning” announcements emanating from speakers on university busses are a sensible installation, used when the vehicles round corners. This is especially true when you see how many students unfortunately seem to cross crosswalks while looking down at a phone or listening through earbuds to an iPod.
Plamondon’s parents have asked UConn to stop employing student drivers, such as the one that killed their son. While we understand and sympathize with their desire to stop such events from occurring again, Gilewski is certainly the exception and not the rule. The problem was not that he was too young. Indeed, all student drivers must be legal adults, have had at least two years of on-the-road driving experience, pass a background check, and have no prior automotive-related violations or arrests. Gilewski’s problems were unique to him – waving to a fellow bus driver when he should have had both hands on the steering wheel, and wearing no eyeglasses even though he was supposed to.
Gilewski himself lost his license, as he should have, and will obviously never work as a UConn bus driver again – or as a driver anywhere else for the rest of his life, hopefully. However, 65 students are currently employed as bus drivers, comprising over 80 percent of the on-campus bus drivers. Should those 65 drivers, presumably (or at least hopefully) all of whom are driving safely, be banned from their jobs? We think not.