Buses don't float Stranded schoolchildren: Vehicles must obey road closures from high water.

March 11, 1998

FOLLOWING OTHER DRIVERS through a flooded road is a gamble, as an Anne Arundel County school bus driver discovered with some pained embarrassment Monday.

With 31 children on board, the bus became stranded on a section of Brock Bridge Road in Savage that is notorious for flooding. Such risk-taking, which endangered children's safety, is unacceptable.

After the heavy rain, which began over the weekend, county crews closed as many as six roads because of flooding from streams and culverts.

Where Brock Bridge Road crosses the Little Patuxent River, county workers posted 55-gallon drums and signs to alert motorists that the road was impassable. Although the moving water was about 4 feet deep, some drivers ignored the warning and drove through.

They made it. The bus didn't.

The bus got mired in the water and began to tip. The students scurried to one side of the bus to help keep it from toppling. Fortunately, the vehicle remained upright and rescuers were able to get the passengers out safely.

When Anne Arundel County highway officials close roads, the danger is real. There was no question that all passing drivers were warned about the high water. If adhering to a schedule was the reason the bus driver decided not to circle back and take a longer route, it was obviously the wrong choice. Because the students had to be rescued, none made it home on time.

Driving through standing water is dangerous under any circumstances, yet too many drivers harbor an unrealistic sense of security about their vehicles. Nightly news programs offer plenty of footage of dramatic rescues of many of these people.

Standing water is deceptive. Water flooding roadways can mask large holes capable of trapping wheels and immobilizing cars.

Moreover, moving water can toss around a 3,000-pound car as if it were a chunk of balsa wood.

School bus drivers should have enough sense to understand these dangers. This may force the school system to create a policy requiring that contract bus drivers obey all road closure warnings, obvious as that might seem.

Pub Date: 3/11/98

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