School bus drivers are held to a much stricter standard than other drivers on the road. Because they are driving dozens of children to and from school and their homes and other destinations, they are to never consume even a slightly intoxicating level of alcohol. In fact, the legal limit for a school bus driver is 0.04%, an almost non-existent level of alcohol and right at the line at which true impairment begins. Under no circumstances are they to ever drive beyond that limit.
Parents are still in shock today after shocking footage surfaced of an intoxicated school bus driver driving children throughout a Georgia town to terrifying screams from the children. The dash cam footage shows the driving performance of allegedly intoxicated school bus driver Carole Ann Etheridge. During some of the footage, she crosses the center line into oncoming traffic while children on the bus understandably screamed in terror. At one point on the dash cam footage, she stops dead in the middle of the road and announces she’s not feeling well.
The reason Etheridge might have been feeling under the whether is that her blood alcohol concentration at the time of arrest was a whopping 0.089, a level that would have exceeded limits for ALL drivers on the road, much less a driver entrusted with a bus full of school children. Parents are understandably angry and fearful. The sounds of the children on the bus demonstrate that they were fearful during the entire ride and confused about what was happening. One parent said, “It’s hard not to go into tears right now. It’s hard to imagine what these kids went through.”
Students smartly called their parents and the parents called for the school system. It took mere minutes for this ride of terror to end. Etheridge was literally pulled off the bus and ordered to see a school resource officer. It was there that they administered the breathalyzer and she blew .089 on the first test.
Angry parents are speaking out about the incident left and right. One said, “There need to be consequences for her actions. He told me we were all scared, she was swerving all over the place, kept hitting the brakes for no reason and the video just proves it.”
The school system took immediate and strong action. They fired Etheridge after she was charged with a DUI. 31 children were on board that bus and the school system wasn’t going to give her another chance to get help. Where children are concerned, people just don’t have time to get their lives together. They should already have them together or else not work around children.
Etheridge was also slapped with a whopping 16 counts of child endangerment. This accounted for all of the children on the bus who were under the age of 14. Even hours later, Etheridge still blew a .04% on a breathalyzer and that is STILL at the legal limit to operate a school bus in Georgia. Parents are understandably upset and considering hiring lawyers of their own for civil suits. It remains to be seen as to whether or not they will take the case this far but they are obviously fuming after this blatant disregard for the lives of their children and the children of friends.
Etheridge’s case demonstrates how much alcoholism and substance abuse problems harm the community and the need to treat them in drastic measures. Sometimes it’s not easy for school boards to know the entirety of someone’s history. For example, it doesn’t appear that Etheridge had any prior DUIs. So the people who hired her might not have had any reason to believe that something like this would happen during her term with them.
Publications like DUIwise have extensive information so that defendants can at least feel like there’s some sense of hope. Etheridge, for example, may have very little chance of escaping legal consequences for this arrest, but she can give herself the best chance for recovery by hiring one of the many lawyers listed by DUIwise.com. When it’s apparent that a defendant is guilty, that doesn’t mean that a lawyer’s work is over.
What a good lawyer does for a DUI defendant is help them to get the best sentence for their circumstances. They may be able to negotiate a plea bargain that gives them residential rehab instead of a jail sentence. They may be able to get the DUI dropped to a lesser charge or in worst case scenarios, they will get reduced jail time for the defendant. Depending on the procedures followed by the officers in Etheridge’s case, Etheridge may even be able to escape charges altogether. After all, breathalyzers can be faulty and there are other reasons for a defendant not to feel well other than drinking alcohol. It’s possible that there are factors in this case that haven’t come to light yet that will be uncovered by the accused’s lawyers.
People are in agreement about the seriousness of DUI offenses. However, lawyers for DUI defendants work to get the best possible outcome for their clients so that they are less likely to drive drunk in the future. In first offense cases, there is often a hefty court fine, license suspension, and perhaps classes that help a defendant recover from substance abuse and alcohol problems.
Whatever the future of this case, it’s certain that Etheridge will never drive a school bus again. Commercial driving regulations are very stern about any type of alcohol consumption while behind the wheel of a vehicle, especially one that is carrying 31 precious students. More details will likely come to light in this case, including Etheridge’s side of the story, but for now, the dash cam shows a horrifying story in its own right and it’s going to be powerful testimony in any trial that takes place. One can only assume that Etheridge might take a plea bargain to avoid steeper penalties. Parents have yet to decide whether to file civil lawsuits but many are considering it.