Article updated: 2/14/2011 12:05 PM | published: 2/14/2011 12:01 AM
TELL ME YOU ARE FUCKING KIDDING ME HERE! COULD FACE STIFFER PENALTIES? YOU MEAN, NOT 9 YEARS AND $50,000?
Drunk bus drivers could face stiffer penalties
SPRINGFIELD — School bus drivers who try to drive their routes while drunk — like one suburban woman did last year — could face stiffer penalties under legislation pending in Springfield.
The proposal comes after Betty Burden, a Mount Prospect Elementary District 57 bus driver, received 30 months of probation for driving students while drunk last March. Burden registered a blood alcohol content of .226 after finishing her routes.
The legislation would give school bus drivers’ supervisors authority to demand a drug test if they believed the driver to be under the influence. If the driver failed or refused to take the test, the Secretary of State could suspend the license for three years.
Rep. Lisa Dugan, a Kankakee Democrat who introduced the measure, said she hopes the legislation will prevent similar occurrences. But it was not necessarily filed in response to Burden’s case. Dugan had previously pitched the idea two years ago.
“This was brought to me as a proactive issue, but since that time there has obviously been an issue,” Dugan said. “Now it is even more important to show we need to take this action before something does happen.”
Burden lost her job and will also have to perform 480 hours of community service, participate in any recommended alcohol treatment and pay a $1,720 fine.
Grand Prairie Transit, which was chosen to run the District 57 bus system after the incident, already monitors bus drivers before their shifts. But company officials said the legislation would be welcomed added enforcement.
Anthony Benish, an attorney for Grand Prairie Transit, said the company gives random drug tests, but Dugan’s plan would mean drivers who refused a test would now be treated the same as those who failed a test.
“Most of our supervisors are already trained in identifying ‘reasonable suspicion’ of alcohol or drug use and now this would give us more authority if we ask a driver to submit to a test,” he said.
Drivers would be tested at a certified, off-location drug testing facility.
Secretary of State spokesman Henry Haupt said while the legislation does not require a three-year license suspension, the office would pursue the maximum penalty for a failed test or refusal.
Though the legal blood alcohol limit for most Illinois drivers is .08, school bus drivers are not allowed to have any alcohol in their systems and any trace would result in a revoked license, Haupt said.
“Basically our position is zero tolerance for school bus drivers and alcohol when they are going to be transporting kids,” he said. “If they even test for a trace of alcohol, they are not allowed to go out on their route and could lose their license for three years.”
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