A substitute school bus driver in Alabama has been fired from the district and criminally charged after police say he had a blood alcohol level more than four times the legal limit while driving his route earlier this month.
On October 17, 46-year-old James Chaney, a transportation mechanic who has filled in as a bus driver for the Clarke County School District for the past 10 years, had just finished dropping off all of the kids in his charge when he was confronted by a police sergeant outside Jackson Middle School in Jackson, Alabama, about an hour north of Mobile.
According to police, a parent had called to report Chaney, though the exact nature of the complaint is unclear. Jackson Police Chief Jerry Taylor claimed that the sergeant then “administered several field sobriety tests,” including a breath test, and that Chaney failed them.
“The driver consented to a breath test to determine his blood alcohol level, and his level was determined to be .33,” Taylor said.
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The legal limit in Alabama is .08, but that limit drops considerably to .02 for those operating commercial vehicles. Some outlets have reported that the limit for bus drivers transporting children is “absolute zero,” though Forbes reported that .02 is still considered “zero tolerance” in Alabama.
Regardless of whether absolute zero or .02 is permitted, Chaney’s blood alcohol level that day appeared to grossly exceed all legal limits, and he was immediately placed under arrest, charged with driving under the influence and reckless endangerment.
“Naturally, driving under the influence of alcohol any time is an egregious violation due to the number of injuries and deaths accidents cause,” Chief Taylor continued, “but especially when you’re operating a school bus filled with schoolchildren under the influence of alcohol.
“In my opinion, that just takes it to the next level.”
Following his arrest, Chaney was fired from the district. Clarke County Schools Superintendent Ashlie Flowers has since issued a statement: “I want to assure members of the school community that student safety and security is the school system’s highest priority. I, also, encourage you to report any similar issues to law enforcement or the Board of Education in the future.”
It is unclear when Chaney is expected to appear in court.
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