Both drivers involved in the school bus accident that injured 17 students earlier this month in James City County were convicted of various charges yesterday.
Brenda Lee Page, 35, of Lanexa, was convicted of reckless driving, which is a class one misdemeanor. She entered a not-guilty plea.
Lynett Tooley, 38, of Lightfoot was convicted of following too close.
Around 6:45 a.m. on March 4 a Warhill High School-bound bus, driven by Tooley and carrying 28 students, struck the rear of another bus headed for Toano Middle School on Old Stage Road.
Although 17 Warhill High students went to the hospital, no one was seriously injured. Page, the Toano driver, had her child on board, but no students.
The drivers testified before the court that the Toano bus was pouring smoke making visibility low for following vehicles. Tooley said the Toano bus was moving slowly, but she couldn’t see how close she was to the bus because of the smoke.
“I wasn’t paying attention to my speed,” she said. “I was watching the smoke.”
Page admitted to driving 10 to 15 mph in a 55 mph zone when the accident occurred. She also said she was about to pull off the road when her bus was rear-ended.
WJCC transportation shop foreman Billy Estes testified the Toano bus was an older diesel model, and it was known for smoking heavily if it wasn’t warmed up for about 30 minutes in cold weather. He said a lot of older diesel buses will smoke and drive slowly if not properly warmed up.
Page testified she’d been driving that bus for a few years and knew about its behavior.
Both buses were considered totaled and removed from the school’s inventory, according to WJCC schools’ spokesman Greg Davy.
Tooley has to pay a fine of $200 plus court costs. If she completes a defensive driver course before Sept. 14, her charges will be dismissed.
Davy couldn’t say if either driver will lose her job.