State BOE puts brakes on proposal

West Virginia Board of Education members were right to slam the brakes on a proposal to permit school buses to travel at 70 mph. Now, they should put the idea in park.

Several state public education policy changes are being considered by the board. But members have tabled a proposal regarding maximum speed for school buses.

Governors limiting the buses to 65 mph are installed on the vehicles under current policy. It has been suggested that could be a safety hazard.

At times, such as when they are merging with traffic on a busy interstate highway, it could be safer for buses to be capable of 70 mph — even faster, in emergency situations, proponents of the change argue.

But the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services disagrees. Noting that in some areas, school buses are limited to speeds 10-15 mph slower than other vehicles, the association in 2000 stated that, “There is ample evidence that this differential in travel speeds does not present a safety risk …”

Association officials pointed out the obvious: “Slower travel speeds reduce the potential crash severity level in vehicle-to-vehicle crashes …” And, of course, as most experienced drivers understand, the difficulty of avoiding any kind of crash increases exponentially with higher speeds.

It appears some on the state board agree with the idea of allowing school buses to exceed 65 mph.

But unless someone can produce concrete evidence that allowing buses to reach 70 mph or higher has safety benefits that outweigh the obvious hazards, the board should retain the current limit.