Columbia County once again experienced tragedy this past week. The death of little 2-year-old Kole Ford left many feeling a sense of deja vu.
It was six years ago that my daughter, Aleana Johnson, was run over by her school bus. Likewise, Kole was also run over by a Columbia County school bus.
Immediately, the comparisons, finger-pointing and accusations began. Unfortunately, the death of a child brings out the worst in everyone, because we all want to have answers and someone to blame.
I admit that in my grief, I was no different. However, it will accomplish little for all involved. Healing comes with time. This can be made more powerful and positive by learning valuable lessons from the tragedies that touch our lives.
This past week I have heard so many accusations and so much misinformation thrown about that I really felt it was important that the residents of Columbia County be made aware of some very key facts.
This accident, while tragic, shares only one similarity with my daughter's death: both accidents involved school buses. This county is not the same as it was when my daughter was killed. The leadership took the information given to them and learned from the mistakes.
As a result, there have been a great deal of positive changes in Columbia County. When Aleana died, school bus training was sorely lacking in the state of Georgia. However, Columbia County implemented Aleana's Law before it ever passed, greatly increasing the driver training, student education and parental involvement.
This is only the beginning. They have altered routes to place younger children's stops closer to the homes, making it easier for parents to actively help their children. The county Web site contains a great deal of information about school bus safety, and the parents receive information yearly through the schools.
The rush to judgment that has accompanied this accident is greatly distressing. It took three years to get Aleana's Law passed in the state. I see some information distributed through the media that is simply misleading and possibly damaging to the great strides forward we have taken as a county.
To clarify, there is only one true blind spot on a bus. The back of the bus is the absolute most dangerous place because there is no mirror adjustment that can offer a bus driver a true view of behind the bus. All the mirrors on the bus ensure that, if properly adjusted, a bus driver can see perfectly in front and along the sides.
However, the same cannot be achieved with the back of the bus. Therefore, the county has done everything in its power to ensure that bus drivers do not back up. In the current situation there is debate over going down a narrow drive. The danger of dropping off small children a third of a mile from their home and then backing up far outweighs the dangers normally associated with looping through a private drive.
A very important element in all of this is the teamwork aspect. Aleana's Law, as well as county policy, greatly focuses on creating a team-like cooperation between the school system, parents and bus drivers. This means it is the responsibility of all of us to work together to see that tragedies such as this do not repeat.
The greatest lesson to be learned from this is that we must remain vigilant and continue to work as a cohesive unit to prevent future tragedies of this sort.
Christy Johnson is an Evans resident.
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