(WSVN) - One mom is pushing for higher safety standards on private school transportation after her son was involved in an accident that she says could have been prevented. Heather Walker has tonight’s 7Investigates.

Dr. Regina Saenz: “Reliving that moment. Not knowing. Getting a call that your son got hit. Not knowing what happened.”

It was just before spring break when Dr. Regina Saenz got the call her son was hit by a van.

Dr. Regina Saenz: “I did not want to watch the video right away.”

A neighbor’s security camera caught the moment. You can see the private school shuttle pull up along Coral Way in Coral Gables.

One moment you see him starting to cross the street, the next, he’s hit.

Dr. Regina Saenz: “I went, I think, and, you know, just grabbed my stuff and just started to drive home. I made a couple of phone calls and asked people to pray.”

According to investigators, this white van crossed a double-yellow line to pass the bus, hitting her 15-year-old son Nicholas.

Dr. Regina Saenz: “Once I made it to the ER, it was a little troublesome to see my son in trauma bay.”

Dr. Saenz is a surgeon. She has seen these types of injuries before, so she went in expecting the worse.

But thankfully, her son survived with only minor injuries, including a dislocated ankle.

Nicholas Suarez Saenz: “I was really lucky. A second later on his end, or a second earlier for me, I couldn’t be here in this interview right now.”

Nicholas and his mom are grateful that he’s alive, but they both believe this could have been prevented.

Nicholas Suarez Saenz: “It could have been easily avoided if they had just followed standard protocol that every other school bus follows.”

In the state of Florida, stop signs are required on public school buses, but not on private school vans. However, the state does give counties the power to add that requirement for private transportation.

Heather Walker: “Why doesn’t Miami-Dade County require private school buses to have stop signs?”

Ivan Cotayo, Miami-Dade County: “Those are regular vehicles being used temporarily to be transporting kids. And again, you might want to use that bus during summer for other personal, family-related things.”

Heather Walker: “But a bright red sign with flashing lights, I mean, that gets your attention.”

Ivan Cotayo, Miami-Dade County: “Yes, it could.”

That spokesperson with the county’s Department of Transportation adds that private school vans are required to have a “Caution Transporting Children” sign.

After 7Investigates brought the issue to the county, they said they would pursue it and hope to bring it to the commission.

Ivan Cotayo, Miami-Dade County: “We would not be opposed to that. Anything to bring more safety for our kids, the department is in favor of that.”

Some lawmakers in Tallahassee are also in favor and are willing to fight for change when it comes to private school vans.

Florida State Sen. Ileana Garcia told 7Investigates with more kids attending private schools, there is a need “for stringent safety standards,” adding “the safety of our children is non-negotiable.”

Garcia says she will address disparities between private and public school transportation in the upcoming legislative session.

Nicholas no longer takes the bus and is focusing on healing as the school year wraps up.

Nicholas Suarez Saenz: “I feel a lot better since the injury, but still have a lot of recovering.”

And his mom says she has a lot of fight to make sure this doesn’t happen to someone else’s child.

Dr. Regina Saenz: “Every child should have the same type of protection, whether you are private or public. We can learn from bad things that happen, and we can always try to make things better and make change for others.”

They are committed to turning their pain into purpose.

Heather Walker, 7News.

CONTACT 7 INVESTIGATES:
305-627-CLUE
954-921-CLUE
7Investigates@wsvn.com

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