The Lakewood Busing System Needs an Oversight Board, Now | Avi Gutfreund

Just a day before Yom Kippur, Lakewood was gripped by a near tragedy. A school bus carrying 15 girls crashed, landing atop parked vehicles, in an incident an eyewitness told TLS began when the bus driver attempted to cut off a vehicle and wound up losing control.

Miraculously, the driver and the girls were not hurt in the accident, and the damaged vehicles struck by the bus were unoccupied.

The bus driver was issued summonses for Reckless Driving Improper Passing. 

It’s wonderful that aside from damaged property everybody walked away unscathed, but we need to do something about the bus driving in Lakewood before someone gets killed. It’s not time to have a “conversation” about it, or to merely be upset and voice our concerns. This issue needs to be rectified. In fact, the problem with the bus driving in Lakewood is so broad, it’s difficult to actually pin down one particular problem with the driving to focus on.

As a writer for TLS, I have been privy to many of the complaints received by the outlet regarding various issues in town. I can assure you that TLS has received the most complaints and requests for help by far from people scared, outraged, and disgusted by the actions of many of the bus drivers in Lakewood.

Before we get into the meat of the matter, I would be remiss if I don’t make something clear: there are many good, nice, courteous, mentschlich bus drivers in Lakewood. I would even venture to suggest that the majority of them are good drivers and wonderful people. But those that are not, are so bad that they are making the lot of them look terrible. The reality of the situation is not an indictment of all bus drivers, but it is very much an indictment of the bad ones and the people responsible for ensuring that those behind the wheel of a school bus are safe and sane.

The complaints are extremely broad in nature – the majority are about the driving itself, like the person who told TLS that his parked vehicle was struck by a bus that then drove away, forcing him to use a neighbor’s home cameras to figure out who damaged his vehicle, or the numerous people who have reported buses flying through stop signs, or those complaining that they were in accidents or near-accidents with buses whose drivers were making unsafe maneuvers, and many reports of children being nearly struck by a bus that was either speeding or careening across the road.

But it’s not only the driving. TLS has received numerous reports, particularly recently, of bus drivers missing a stop and then dropping the children off blocks away from their homes because they don’t want to go back; of bus drivers inexplicably doing their route backward, resulting in children missing the bus entirely – in one such case, a bus that normally carries 35 children arrived at school with just 4 onboard; of bus drivers yelling at and berating children for minor offenses; of drivers making concerning gestures towards young children, including in one case giving a child money; of a bus driver who literally got off the bus to chase down a child who threw a water balloon or the sort; of a bus driver who left a child at school alone for momentarily taking off her mask; and so, so much more. The list really goes on and on and on.

All the while, we have not heard a word from the bus companies responsible for the drivers, parents have told TLS an innumerable number of times that their calls go unanswered or they are hung up on, and perhaps worst of all, the LSTA has turned a blind eye to all of this. Put simply, there is nobody at all to turn to when things go awry, and awry they have been going for a long time now.

But now we need change. The pre-Yom Kippur crash made that clear for everyone to see. We cannot sit back and allow this to go on any longer.

What I would demand is for the LSTA to create an oversight board that parents can call when an issue arises. When an incident occurs, a parent should be able to call someone who will hold the bus companies and bus drivers responsible. The only people who can do that are those running the LSTA. It’s not enough for the LSTA to give out contracts and figure out routes – that’s only step 1. The LSTA has to follow through and make sure that children are actually getting the busing they are supposed to be receiving, that the companies and drivers who received contracts from them are following through in good-faith and with safety at the forefront of their jobs.

It’s not enough to complain, it’s not enough to tell bus drivers to slow down or not be idiots. There have been, and continue to be, too many incidents to simply brush this away. The LSTA has to step in and create a responsible, responsive, and proactive oversight board that will end this scourge of dangerous, irresponsible, and insane incidents from continuing.

It’s time children are cared for, and it’s time parents have a voice.

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33 COMMENTS

  1. How about an online survey parents can fill out and rate their child’s bus driver. This would give us the ability to acknowledge those drivers excel at what they do. If there are issues, parents can easily bring it to the company’s attention.

  2. The Schools are scared of the LSTA and the LSTA is scared of the Bus company that does most of the routes in town.

    The schools are just happy that a bus exists, and LSTA is just happy that they did their job and there’s no way for the school to hold LSTA accountable or for the LSTA to hold the bus company accountable

  3. I am living in Lakewood 2 years now and I have never seen bus drivers act the way they do here. I recently saw a driver honking aggresively and swearing at the other driver with a bus full of kids. On the other hand, I see the way the heimishe drivers specifically for the Hassidic kids, act in such a well mannered way. They hock to let the kids know they are outside in case they aren’t outside, and they watch to see that the kids safely cross and are walking towards their home. Its a BIG difference who we entrust our children with. Unfortunately “Money ” is the reason we put up with these risks.

  4. As a parent that has seen and experienced many close calls due to poor judgement of the minority of irresponsible bus drivers, I strongly encourage this call to action. Many Drivers have acted with impunity and have seen no repercussions to their dangerous actions. Let’s not wait for a tragedy c”v to put in place accountability to protect our most cherished children.

  5. Once we are on the topic of a committee… Can we also get oversight as to why Lakewood “non mandated” routes are getting picked up BEFORE a lot of the mandated bus routes? I believe the LSTA was formed to also help the non mandated but shouldn’t that be the case once all the mandated routes are picked up. Of course the vendor(s) will be bidding on the non mandated routes first it’s more profitable for them. Why is LSTA rolling it off their shoulders by saying “we just create the routes we have no control what routes the vendors pick up” . Ok so if you have no control then we need to form yet another committee to oversee everything going on.

  6. 100% spot on! The only point I would disagree with is that the oversight board should be completely independent, so there is no conflict of interest anywhere. The board should have access to real-time and historical tracking data, and should also be able to review video from the buses.
    Of course, the bus companies will never voluntarily share this data, but if we the parents *really* care, we can band together and force their hand by demanding that no contracts be given to any bus company that does not comply. Remember a few years ago when everyone agreed to carpool for a few days in order to make a point about the necessity of private school busing? We can do the same thing again. As inconvenient as this would be, the parents can suffer with carpools longer than the bus companies can stay solvent without routes.

  7. While this sounds like a great idea in theory, in reality this is not a good idea. Creating more power for more people is not going to in actuality help the little children going on these busses etc. it’s just creating more big govt entities and just another place that chanifus has to be paid. This is the reality of today’s world…. In my opinion this is a waste of time.

  8. Sorry to say but there is one bus company specifically who’s drivers are reckless , and you can call them 20 times to complain, and they wont pick up a phone or return a call … hope they learned a lesson

  9. All talk is nice. But nothing can happen without more money. And as soon as you ask parents to pay for something that they think they are entitled to for free , then the answer is NO .

    In a few years we will have no drivers because we need to pay more to get more qualified people ,need to pay to train them properly etc etc .

    The same for teachers. In a few more years ,there will be very few qualified teachers left in your daughter’s school. You will be getting a few unqaulified girls out of high school who can’t find another job. The qualified teachers can get paid double working in a business. But ask parents to pay some serious tuition increases in order to pay good salaries, and wait for the answer.

  10. How the oversight board would work (for dummies)
    1) An oversight board needs staff.
    2) Staff needs oversight….(which need a manager, which needs oversight….. like most bureaucracies)

    Or the other option would be to hire heimish drivers who actually have a family with children and ‘care’. Problem solved!

  11. As much as I agree because the safety of our children and even their contentedness is tantamount to their stable growth… this is a ‘driver’s market’ and it is an issue for the parents and the bus companies! How many routes are an issue because they were not picked up? How many of companies that bid keep saying they would take more routes… but the can’t find drivers?! Now we want more scrutiny on the drivers and to start censuring and/or firing some. At the end of the day… we probably have to push for that anyway… but you can see where this becomes difficult!

  12. Can any one believe that the same driver who was cutting someone off on Forest Ave. at full speed ,turned over 3 parked cars , received a summons from the Police dept. . was back on the job just 2 school days later???? He drove today Whos job is it to stop this ???? The bus company is hired and gets paid from LSTA. THEY AND ONLY They are responsible.

  13. All these statements coming from people who don’t drive busses and folks that don’t know what it’s like to drive a car, let alone a bus through the streets of hell (lakewood)… I’m willing to wager that most incidents are called in by people who just cut that bus off because they are self important and must go first… remember as u point a finger that 3 point back at you..

    • Just a note saying we appreciate our bus drivers. And assuming you are one, thank you for driving our kids. Especially in Lakewood. Please don’t take one or two (or even more than that) comments as the rule.

      Thank you for taking on a super important job – much appreciated 🙂

      p.s. yes, we should all improve our driving.

  14. This bus company lost my 5yo (dropped him off a mile away from his stop by route 9 no less) and when asked about the incident and what was being done about the driver and future safety precautions, THE OWNER of the company blackmailed my sons entire yeshiva and refused to drive so we wouldn’t press charges (which we probably should have).

  15. Thebusdriver, sorry you’ve been attacked like this. We do appreciate your efforts in driving our kids to school in the frustrating traffic in this town. Chances are that you are of the responsible majority of bus drivers. But if you’re the one driving recklessly, then all the traffic and people cutting you off doesn’t excuse your actions! Take the high road, be safe, and drive like it’s your kids on the bus!

  16. It would be wonderful to have more frum bus drivers. Jay’s once ran an ad campaign but I guess it didn’t work so well. If anyone has ideas for a way to change things and make it more accepted for a yungerman to drive a bus (possibly before and after seder), then please write in. And to all those frum drivers out there, thank you! We respect and appreciate you!

  17. There is a meeting tonight (9/19) with the department of transportation and bus companies at 7:30pm in the football field by the Lakewood Middle School. If you can please attend.

  18. I drive my kids to school. Anyone notice how everytime TLS posts a video or picture of a bus doing something reckless it is the same company time after time.

  19. A simple idea I had a while back is to have an app like Uber that tracks the bus (either through built in GPS or the drivers phone) which parents can have access to. While this certainly won’t solve all problems it would help with all the missed stops, not knowing if the bus didn’t come yet, already came, is about to come in etc. There are already many apps out there that do exactly this and many schools districts across the country that utilize it.

  20. We had the MOST AMAZING frum driver! I thanked Hshem for him every day last yr! And then ppl acted petty and young and dumb, the school dug a grave and he was fired. They didnt know the bracha they had! And now we have noone. So we drive 2 hours every day. Unreal and so sad. Id pay anything to get that frum safe midosfull bus driver back.

  21. Amazon was exposed for demanding drivers to cover X amount of packages per hour basically forcing them to be extremely reckless and withhold bathroom breaks for hours on end to keep their quota. Although it’s true some bus drivers are careless/reckless, not all fingers should be pointed at the drivers. We as a community are the Amazon bosses pushing Unrealistic expectations on these drivers. When a driver is driving Fast at 8:00 AM on Forest Ave it’s not because he gets a thrill driving a bus. it’s because these drivers have to run a route for a boys school right after the girls high school route. And likely the day before the driver was called out by his boss that the parents in the boys school route are complaining that their son is coming late to yeshiva. Our system is faulty on so many levels, the actual drivers being the smallest of them. Thankfully no one was injured and it’s my deepest hope that enough laymen will join together to put a stop to this faulty mess before we are joined together by either a Serious injury or a kidnapping God forbid.

  22. 1. The bus companies have GPS tracking they just don’t let the parents have access.

    2. Maybe we could hire some Israeli farmers for the year as drivers?

  23. A possible solution to this may be for ALL drivers in Lakewood to give ALL buses the courtesy they deserve.
    Let them go ahead,
    Don’t cut them off,
    Even pull over for them to go ahead.
    They are transporting our most precious children yet we never have the patients to get stuck behind them or allow them the courtesy to go ahead of us.

    I think if we all give them the courtesy, they will have allot easier time getting around and they may have a better attitude.

    We all know this isn’t an easy town to navigate.

    As for the bus companies not answering. I see an owner of one of the companies in town, and whether it be 7 am or 7 pm he is always on the phone taking care of issues.
    I don’t think they are ignoring complaints just maybe there are too many complainers

    • Glad you see one of the owners of the bus company on the phone all day. But he is not dealing with parents concerns. It is rare to get a call back from any bus company, never heard of a parent actually getting in touch with the owner

  24. While I think there are many great points being raised, I would like to share my personal experiences. I’ve found the LSTA to be extremely easy to get through to and ready to deal with problems as they arise.
    If you see a bus that is doing something irresponsible, report it to the LSTA. How can the LSTA do anything about it if it’s not reported to them.

  25. Yungerman belong in the BaitHamedresh, not driving school buses. Their driving inexperience will cause accidents to go up exponentially.

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