The North Carolina Highway Patrol has found the Wake County school bus driver at fault for causing the collision that critically injured a Raleigh firefighter last Friday. The bus driver has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of the investigation.
A Highway Patrol spokesman said that the bus driver, 52 year old Sheila Wimbush Hall, crossed the center line and side-swiped an oncoming station wagon on Ligon Mill Road near the intersection of Louisburg Road. The bus brushed off of the station wagon and continued into the oncoming lane and struck a pickup truck driven by off-duty Raleigh fireman Harry "Flip" Kissinger. After the collision, the bus landed on top of the pickup truck, pinning the driver inside. The Highway Patrol says that charges are pending.
As I reported in a previous post, Kissinger suffered a serious head injury in the wreck. He is still in the intensive care unit at Wake Medical Center. He has undergone several medical procedures related to his brain injury, and he is still not out of the woods. The waiting room at WakeMed is packed with Kissinger's fireman colleagues and family members.
At this point, we do not know why the bus driver crossed the center line, but this collision certainly has some of the signs of being a distracted driving case. The cause of the crash may be that the driver simply looked down or away at the wrong time and drifted into the oncoming lane. In which case, she was merely careless in causing the wreck. But if I were investigating this collision, I would be checking her cell phone records.
I discussed the dangers of distracted driving and texting while driving in one of my earlier posts. Checking emails and texting while driving have been the cause of a number of recent high profile bus crashes. Several bus drivers have been caught on videotape texting at the time of a collision. Below is one that is posted on YouTube.