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Monday February 8th, 2016 1:12AM
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Habersham bus driver hailed a hero

By Rob Moore Reporter
DEMOREST - A large crowd witnessed the Habersham County Board of Education honor a special education bus driver for heroism Monday night, then gave her a standing ovation.

Andrea Rodriguez received the board's monthly Service Above Self Award during Monday's meeting in the gym at Demorest Elementary School.

But school system officials say Rodriguez's award honors more than just her daily job performance.

Transportation Director Tim Dockery submitted the nomination of Rodriguez for the recognition.

"On the afternoon of Monday, Nov. 18, Andrea made an evasive driving maneuver that clearly helped save serious harm to herself and her passengers," the nomination states. "Andrea was on her route when an oncoming pickup truck left the roadway on Andrea's left, overcorrected, and started heading straight toward the front of the school bus.

"The actions of both the pickup driver and Andrea helped avoid disaster," the nomination states. "The pickup was already across the double yellow lines as it started correcting the skid away from the bus. Andrea hit the brakes and steered the right side wheels of her bus onto the righthand shoulder of the road. The two vehicles narrowly missed as the pickup skidded past the front and left side of the bus. Andrea literally had milliseconds to react and did so, helping to avoid a disastrous outcome."

Following the award presentation, Habersham County School Superintendent Matthew Cooper also recognized Rodriguez, hailing her as a hero.

He spoke more about her efforts after the meeting concluded.

"Mr. Dockery, our transportation director, called me into his office and said he had some video footage he wanted me to see from one of our school buses," Cooper said. "We have new video systems on all our buses that were purchased with SPLOST dollars and they've paid off in many, many ways already with regards to safety."

Cooper explained more about the cameras, and the footage captured in the incident involving Rodriguez.

"One of the cameras faces out of the front of the bus so that you can see the road ahead and also oncoming traffic," Cooper said. "And you can see a full-size Dodge pickup truck go off the road, and the driver overcorrected and came back in the lane of our school bus = and was actually headed straight for the bus at a very high rate of speed."

He said Rodriguez took swift action to prevent a crash.

"Our driver, Ms. Rodriguez - without thinking - swerved just enough to miss that truck, but kept it in the road and kept control of that school bus, but it was literally inches from a terrible head-on collision from what I could see," Cooper said. "We said tonight she's a hero. There's no doubt in my mind that Ms. Rodriguez helped avert a tragedy with her great driving skills."
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