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Tour Driver Was Cited for Speeding in Nevada

Times Staff Writer

Starline Sightseeing Tours driver Ernest A. Klimeck, 47, was stopped by Nevada state troopers for speeding early in March while driving the same bus that crashed into the Walker River in Mono County last week, killing 20 and injuring 21 others, Nevada officials reported Friday.

Klimeck, cited for driving 72 m.p.h. in a 55-m.p.h. zone outside Las Vegas on March 1, failed to appear in Las Vegas Justice Court on March 26 as ordered and a bench warrant is being prepared, court officials said.

The Nevada citation has been forwarded to the California Highway Patrol accident investigation team that is helping in the Walker River wreck investigation, according to Nevada Highway Patrol Maj. Bill Yukish. California Department of Motor Vehicle records show that Klimeck also had received four tickets for speeding in California in the last 30 months and that his license had been suspended for a time for failure to appear in court to settle one of these citations.

At the time his bus skidded off of U.S. 395 north of Bridgeport in Mono County and crashed into the Walker River on May 30, Klimeck’s license was valid, state officials said. Four negative points had been put on his driving record as a result of his California citations, but officials here had been unaware of the Nevada citation, according to DMV spokesman Dave Davis.

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Four points in one year on the average motorist’s driving record would result in the cancellation of his or her driver’s license, but Davis explained that because commercial bus and truck drivers are on the road more, they are allowed six points a year before their license is suspended.

Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) cited this policy at a Los Angeles press conference Friday at which he announced that he will sponsor legislation to stiffen tour bus drivers’ testing and licensing requirements.

“This means a driver responsible for a busload of the elderly is tacitly allowed to speed a little more than you and I,” Hayden said.

He told reporters that he intends to try to reduce the number of points a commercial driver can get before losing his or her license.

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Noting that all the bus crash victims lived in his Assembly district, Hayden also said that he will try to make testing procedures for tour bus driver conform to those of school bus drivers.

School bus drivers must pass both written and driving tests administered by the California Highway Patrol. Tour bus drivers must pass written exams given by the Department of Motor Vehicles, but do not have to take driving tests if the employing company certifies that the drivers are familiar with the vehicle they will drive.


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