Original article no longer available
October 15, 2002
Author: Michael Amon, Washington Post Staff Writer
A Calvert County public school bus driver was arrested yesterday after his bus crashed into a telephone pole and he kept driving, despite injuries to at least two high school students, the county sheriff’s office said. Bus driver John R. Rodriguez Jr., 39, of St. Leonard was charged last night with driving while impaired by drugs and failure to control speed to avoid an accident, and was released on his own recognizance. He told authorities that he had taken prescription medication yesterday.
The bus was carrying 14 students as it traveled north on Sollers Wharf Road in Lusby before veering into a ditch and striking a utility pole shortly before 3 p.m., Sheriff John A. Bartlett Jr. said. The soft gravel shoulder of the recently paved road kept the bus from regaining traction when its right front wheel went slightly off the asphalt, said Brian Stevens, director of pupil transportation for Calvert schools.
The front and roof of the bus were damaged, but the driver backed out of the ditch, got the bus back on the road and continued driving, Bartlett said.
“It’s only when the kids complained about injuries that he finally stopped,” Bartlett said.
All bus occupants were teenagers from Patuxent High School in Lusby. None was injured badly, but authorities disagreed on how many were taken to the hospital. Bartlett and a firefighter at the scene said two students were taken to Calvert Memorial Hospital. They were treated and released, officials said.
The uninjured passengers were released to their parents, who had rushed to the scene. A Solomons volunteer fire officer said authorities alerted the students’ parents to the accident by cell phone from the scene.
Sheriff’s officials arrested Rodriguez immediately
“Based on the driver’s looks and his eyes, his demeanor, he was arrested,” Bartlett said. “He was not coherent.” Drug and alcohol tests were administered at department headquarters in Prince Frederick.
School Superintendent James R. Hook said Rodriguez was taking a legal antidepression drug. Stevens said it was against school system policy for bus drivers to ingest any substance that “would hinder their performance in any way. We talk about that all the time.” The driver will be suspended with pay until police and drug-test reports are prepared, Stevens said.
Stevens said Rodriguez is a veteran in “good standing.” He had not failed any of the federally mandated random drug tests and had no negative personnel marks, Stevens said.
Stevens would not comment on Rodriguez’s actions after hitting the pole. Generally, Stevens said, bus drivers are supposed to stop and report accidents to superiors.