SHELBY COUNTY, TN (WMC) - A former Durham school bus driver had eight open traffic tickets and a suspended license when he wrecked his school bus with kids on board.
Tommy Anderson, 25, appeared in Memphis Municipal Court Wednesday on the suspended license charge. Durham School Services fired him after it discovered he was driving under a suspended license when he wrecked his bus in service of Shelby County Schools' Treadwell Middle School on Sept. 5. No one was seriously injured.
Court personnel and records confirmed his license was suspended because of eight open traffic tickets and $895.50 in unpaid fines since 2010. The violations included a child safety seat violation, disregarding a stop sign, non-renewal of registration -- all personal vehicle violations. All except one incident occurred while Anderson was employed by Durham School Services.
"I didn't know about the unpaid tickets, and I didn't know my license was suspended," Anderson said at his court appearance Wednesday.
Memphis Municipal Court Judge Tarik Sugarmon ordered Anderson back to court Dec. 8 to give him time to make good on the tickets before prosecuting the suspended license charge.
WMC Action News 5 has sent an e-mail request to Durham's spokesperson Molly Hart. We asked her if Durham was aware of Anderson's motor vehicle record and if not, why not. We also asked whether Durham continues to track its drivers' motor vehicle and charge histories after they've been hired. Hart has yet to answer our request.
But in a previous story about Anderson's license suspension, Hart said it was the state of Tennessee's responsibility to alert Durham to the change in Anderson's license status, but Durham "...was never notified."
Anderson said his wreck Sept. 5 was his only accident in three years as a Durham school bus driver. He said the company's drivers are still getting used to as many as 1,200 new bus routes. Some drivers are speeding to complete three separate school routes in the morning and afternoon, he added.
"All the drivers need to just slow down," he said. "You have to rush because you...well, you made yourself behind (if you're running behind on the route)."
When we asked him if that was what caused his wreck Sept. 5, he answered, "No, actually it was a dog that ran across the street Sept. 5."
"He was following too close," said Natural Addison, the driver whose car Anderson rear-ended in the Sept. 5 wreck. Police did cite him for following too closely.
"He was endangering kids, and I think Durham needs to better check their drivers," Addison said.
on-going concerns with crashes, background checks and training of Durham school bus drivers. The company enjoys an $103 million contract with SCS and a collective $33 million contract with Shelby County's six municipal districts.
Tuesday, Durham released a statement about the recent incidents:
Click here to see an interactive map of all the bus crashes this school year.
Durham and Shelby County Schools have a meeting scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 6, to discuss potential violations of its bus contract.