Bus driver speaks out against reckless driving

It's school bus driver Jill Spaniol's greatest nightmare. A car passes her on a double yellow line. She can't see it in the blind spots of her mirrors, but she knows it's there; she can hear it accelerating. Then she sees another car, appearing on the crest of the hill in the oncoming lane.

Brake lights flash, tires screech, but it's too late.

"I drive a transit bus. The front end is flat, so I'd be the first to go," Spaniol said. "My students are the most important thing, though."

Spaniol, who lives in the Gardnerville Ranchos, has been driving Douglas County School District's Route 4 for a year. Twice a day, five days a week, she transports 17 kids between Topaz Lake and Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School, traversing a stretch of Highway 395 notorious for fatal head-on collisions.

"It happens every day," she said. "A car will pass on a double yellow line. Eight other bus drivers go out that way, and my partners will call me when somebody's on my bumper and tell me to get ready."

Spaniol said when a car illegally passes her, she slows down and tries to pull off onto the shoulder, especially before a blind turn or hilltop. She'll record the car's license plate number if possible.

"I would say 95 percent of the cars that do it are from California," she said. "They are out-of-towners who don't know how dangerous that highway is."

Shocked by the number of reckless drivers, Spaniol confided in her coworkers.

"They all told me how bad it was," she said. "And it's getting worse... I was seven minutes behind the last fatal accident in February. I have a long memory of all the people who've been killed on that road."

On Feb. 13, a man and four dogs were killed in a head-on collision near Bodie Flat. On July 14, four people, an entire family, were killed in a head-on collision north of Spring Valley Road.

Spaniol said Fridays are especially bad because tourists are traveling to Lake Tahoe and Reno for the weekend.

"They'll pass me in a big hurry, illegally, but five minutes later I'll be right behind them at the stop light at 711," she said.

Spaniol decided enough was enough: she contacted authorities.

"I have to thank the Nevada Highway Patrol and the Douglas County Sheriff's Office," she said. "I been working with Sgt. Dan Coverly, and I know how hard it is to try to cover everything. But even just an appearance on that road makes a difference."

Spaniol also began offering her students a dollar for every reckless driver's license plate number they wrote down.

"I have one ninth grader who because of this wants to go into law enforcement," she said. "This kids aren't just pieces of cargo. They're precious."


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment