Ticketed bus driver not oldest in county
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Last week's school bus accident involving 80-year-old bus driver Otis Hames raised some concerns on our website. According to New Hanover County Schools, Hames is not the only bus driver in his 80s. Now some lawmakers say maybe the laws should be changed.

By law, there's no age limit to drive a school bus, but after Wilmington Police charged Hames with failure to yield the right of way, some are questioning the safety of students.

Many of the comments on our website defend Hames, Others argue that an 80-year-old has no business driving a school bus.

Drivers are required to pass several tests to renew their certification, including a physical. Hames passed his back in 2005. AARP, though, says certain human functions do have a tendency to decline as people age, including vision, hearing, reaction time and cognitive and motor abilities.

So should the law change? State Rep. Carolyn Justice thinks a change may be needed.

"I, as a legislator, was surprised to find that folks 80 years old are driving school buses," Justice, a Hampstead Republican, said. "Maybe we'll discuss having them re-examined every year. Maybe we'll just have to decide an age cut-off."

For now the state will have to rely on current standards for testing drivers that were recently changed. A representative for Transportation Services at the Department of Public Instruction in Raleigh said the state recently changed bus driver certification to a three-year renewal cycle instead of the old five-year cycle.

As for the drivers in New Hanover County, out of the 306 drivers employed, 41 are between the ages of 60 to 69 years old, 15 are between the ages of 70 and 79 and there are two drivers in their 80s, including Hames and a woman a few months older than him. The other 248 drivers are under the age of 60.

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Mr.Otis might be 80 but in my eyes he was goood driver.The one they replaced him with is who u need to worry about.Approaching the stops fast and hit brakes.Haven't been on time since she got the bus.Mr.Otis was always on time.Kids never had to stand outside the school n the afternoons waiting on him.People love to look at the bad and forget about the good.I for 1 hope he get his bus back.My granny is 80 and still drive.I'll ride with her before I ride with a teenager.Just leave the man alone and discuss something that needs to be discussed.Thank You.

My father (a retired civil engineer) is a hale and hearty 81 and drives with the skill and attentiveness of a man half his age. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend him to drive a bus.

But mental and physical changes can occur relatively rapidly with advancing age. Perhaps more frequent testing is called for?

I must say this has to be one of the most overt cases of discrimination I have ever heard. This is a very ageist point of view and I think the county and state should be ashamed of themselves for entertaining such an idea. I would tell every bus driver over the cut off age to seek legal counsel for discrimination. Just because one person made a mistake, an entire group of people should not be outcast. If they pass all qualifications they should still be employed no matter their age. Perhaps test them more often due to medically documented reflex delays, but to eliminate them all together is shameful. Remember that these medical findings are generalizations and do not encompass every person. I personally am not a perfect driver and I am a twenty something, how should my peers be punished? Let's not forget that we will all be considered elderly one day, is this how we would want to be treated?

Everyone complained about drivers being too young, that is why they stopped letting students drive buses like years ago - Now people want to complain about drivers being too old! It is hard to find good drivers young or old so stop complaining, get your bus license and quit being judgemental!!!

I was making a comment about the bus driver what's wrong with older people driving buses longs he/she know what they doing because I can hurt students.

If you met Otis you would not peg him a day older than 65. From what I know of him, he's in extremely better shape physically and mental than 99% of other 80 year olds.

If the person has met the requirement required their age should not be the deciding factor. The schools should utilize juniors and seniors that meet the qualifications as they did a number of years ago. Many times the more mature driver can and will resolve issues more readily that the younger drivers. I agree the drivers should be certified more frequently than they have in the past, it should be a certification yearly. The gentleman should be commended instead of being critized. My question is why did he not yield?

C'mon what the hell is wrong with you all? The guy is 80 for christ's sake. You think he has the reactions of a 40 year old ? Bullshit! Kids are being driven around by an 80 year old man, and when he crashes and they die what are you gonna say then? Why didn't he yield ?