A little less than three years after an accident claimed the life of an 11-year-old boy, a northeast Iowa school district is on the verge of installing new technology on all of its buses to hopefully prevent a similar tragedy from happening again. The Janesville Consolidated School District will install sensors on six buses that will detect children in hard-to-see places.
Superintendent B.J. Meaney says a group called the “Smile BIG Foundation” raised all the money for the sensors, which cost about $2,500 per bus. “Hopefully it means safer bus routes, safer buses…parents will be a little bit more at ease with their kids getting on and off the buses,” Meaney says.
In October 2011, a Janesville school bus struck and killed a sixth grade student. Investigators said Justin Bradfield got off the bus, but then ran back to pick something up. The driver never saw him, and the bus hit the boy when it started moving forward.
The new sensor system has internal and external alarms to aid Janesville bus drivers like Allen Durnil. “If you look back…and if you don’t see anybody, then you start looking and usually a buzzer will go off, you know, if they are anywhere around the bus,” Durnil says. Shortly after Justin’s death in 2011, the Smile BIG Foundation was formed.
The group’s name is a tribute to the Justin’s upbeat personality. Today would have been Justin’s 14th birthday.
(Reporting by Jill Kasperie, KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids)