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June 06 2007 - Louisiana bus driver cited in death

An East Baton Rouge Parish school bus driver who ran over a 5-year-old boy crossing in front of her bus on Jan. 18 was cited Wednesday for failing to exercise due care.

Travis White, 24, was issued the citation after the Baton Rouge Police Department’s Traffic Homicide Unit concluded the fatal accident did not warrant a criminal charge.

A Police Department investigation concluded that White became momentarily distracted after Marco Miranda got off the bus in the 11300 block of South Walker Court, Police Department spokesman Sgt. Don Kelly said.

White lost track of where the boy was, accelerated from the bus stop and ran over and killed Miranda, Kelly said.

Kelly said Miranda was able to walk close enough to the front of the bus, which was not equipped with a crossing arm, so that White could not see where he was from the driver’s seat.

The accident led the school system to retrofit crossing arms to all of its active, older model buses by mid-March, school system spokesman Chris Trahan said. The school district added the devices — which pivot from the right side of the front bumper to keep students from walking in front of the bus — to about 150 buses.

State law requires buses acquired after 1996 to include the crossing arms, but a Louisiana House bill would require all buses, regardless of age, to have the safety devices.

The bill, proposed after the deaths of Miranda and a 5-year-old child in Union Parish in February, passed the House unanimously and was assigned to the Senate Education committee.

The school system launched its own internal investigation after the accident, but Trahan said he could not comment on its findings.

White was placed on administrative leave after the accident and is still on school system payroll, he said.

He said he did not know if she would continue driving a school system bus next year.

“The school system understands this is a tragic matter and the findings from the Police Department support that,” Trahan said.

Miranda’s parents filed a lawsuit against the School Board in January, alleging the school system was negligent because the bus did not have a crossing arm.

The attorney for the parents, Randolph Piedrahita, declined comment Wednesday, but Trahan said the school system settled with the parents.

Details of the settlement were not immediately available Wednesday.

After meeting with Police Department legal advisers and with prosecutors, traffic homicide investigators determined that White’s actions “were not sufficiently negligent to legally support a criminal charge,” Kelly said. The department decided to cite White for violating city-parish ordinance 11:93 Drivers to Exercise Due Care.

The ordinance says, in part, that drivers “shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child” on a roadway.
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