For the third time this month, a New York school bus driver is accused of driving a bus drunk.
The latest allegedly tipsy driver is 47-year-old James Sommer, of Massapequa. At the time of his alleged DWI, Sommer was transporting 29 seventh graders on a field trip to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory yesterday.
Suffolk County authorities say that when Sommer attempted to park the bus, he crashed into a tree. One girl, 12, was taken to a local hospital with minor injuries.
As we reported last week, New York’s drunk bus driver problem is so bad that it has prompted lawmakers to draft legislation to prevent bus drivers from driving while wasted.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice and state Senator Charles Fuschillo are pushing a bill that would require ignition interlock devices be installed on all school buses throughout the state.
Ignition interlock devices are the same gadgets that judges often require repeat drunk drivers install in their vehicles — they require the driver to blow into a breathalyzer in order to start the vehicle. If alcohol is detected, the vehicle won’t start.
“School bus drivers literally hold students lives in their hands,” says Fuschillo, the chairman of the Senate’s Transportation Committee. “We have strong laws to hold bus drivers accountable after they have been drinking; now we need to prevent them from even having the chance to drive drunk behind the wheel of a bus. Requiring school buses to be equipped with ignition interlocks will provide a defense against drunk driving for children who can’t defend themselves.”
If passed, New York would become the first state in America — and probably anywhere — to require school bus drivers to blow into a breathalyzer before doing their job.
As we mentioned, the bill is in response to two prior incidents of drunk school bus drivers this month.
On October 3, 66-year-old Fredrick Flowers crashed the bus he was driving into a house while driving five kids home from St. Edward the Confessor School. Authorities say Flowers passed out at the wheel and veered into the house on Teibrook Avenue.
It was later determined that he was drunk, authorities say.
The kids on the bus ranged in age from 5 to 8. Luckily, none of them were injured.
About two weeks later, another bus driver, 48-year-old Robert Stundis, was arrested for allegedly driving a school bus drunk in Ronkonkoma. At the time of his arrest, his BAC was .23, and authorities found a half-empty bottle of vodka on the bus.
Sommer has been charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated with a child passenger 15 years old or younger, driving while intoxicated while operating a school bus with students on board and endangering the welfare of a child.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 23, 2012