The Case of the Drunk School Bus Driver

April 2nd, 2010 by Kathy McManus

Federal rules prevent employers from testing for alcohol abuse. But what if kids are involved?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Chicago’s Breaking News Center blog reports that a school bus driver with three times the legal limit of alcohol in her system was allowed to complete her hour-plus route with 50 kids onboard because a supervisor said federal regulations prohibited him from stopping the driver without “actual knowledge” she was intoxicated.

According to the Chicago Sun Times, the 54-year-old driver for the school district of Mount Prospect, a suburb of Chicago, “had quaffed several vodka and orange juice drinks” and “reeked of liquor.” A co-worker who smelled alcohol on the driver before she started her route waited an hour to inform a supervisor. The supervisor caught up with the bus and boarded it, but since he “could not detect any signs that she was intoxicated” let her keep driving. He followed behind in his car and called police. More than fifteen minutes later, police pulled over the bus and arrested the driver—after the last child had been dropped off.

Mount Prospect School District officials said their hands were tied by federal rules limiting when supervisors can test employees for alcohol abuse. “It’s such a delicate decision, to make an accusation of this nature against somebody,” schools superintendant Elaine Aumiller told NBC Chicago. “You have to have compelling evidence that it is there, and it wasn’t.”

Tell us what you think: Are there cases in which following the letter of the law is irresponsible?