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Student killed in school bus wreck died saving others; trainee driver was not certified

The school bus crash this week at Temple, Georgia, highlights several issues about school bus safety.

* According to an eyewitness on the bus, Rashawn Walker, the 17 year old student who was ejected and killed, had pulled back another student and saved her from being ejected as the bus rolled over. Though he may have saved another student’s life, he was ejected and killed. His death is an unspeakable tragedy for his family, but from a theological standpoint there are worse things than laying down your life for a friend.

* The bus driver trainee had a CDL but lacked proper certification for operation of a school bus, according to a report in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The degree of training required of school bus driver varies widely among Georgia counties.

* The school bus was a new one equipped with a video camera. Video recordings have not yet been released but may be crucial in determining what happened.

* The lack of seat belts on school buses is yet again an issue for public debate. The National Center for School Bus Safety lays out the arguments. When we worked on the Bluffton University baseball team bus crash in Atlanta a few years ago, one of the good things to come from that tragedy was political pressure for new DOT rules that, we hope, will require seat belts on tour buses within three years. However, school bus passenger seats are still excluded from such a requirement.

Ken Shigley is president-elect of the 42,000 members State Bar of Georgia. He began his career as an Assistant District Attorney in the Tallapoosa Judicial Circuit, and then in general private practice in Douglasville, practicing regularly in Douglas, Carroll, Paulding and surrounding counties. Mr. Shigley is author of Georgia Law of Torts: Trial Preparation & Practice, and a Certified Civil Trial Attorney of the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He has been listed as a “Super Lawyer” (Atlanta Magazine), among the “Legal Elite” (Georgia Trend Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, and is a board member of the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group. He practices law at the Atlanta law firm of Chambers, Aholt & Rickard, and has broad experience in catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, products liability, spinal cord injury, brain injury and burn injury cases. He is also president-elect of the 42,000 member State Bar of Georgia. This post is subject to our ethical disclaimer.

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