Bus driver charged with DUI to appear in Walton County Probate Court in October

Carole Ann Etheridge. Photo credit: Walton County Sheriff’s Office

Carole Ann Etheridge, 49, will appear in the Walton County Probate Court in October to face charges of driving under the influence and child endangerment.

According to Walton County Senior Asst. District Attorney Randy McGinley, the charges are traffic violations and as such are handled by the Probate Court. The child endangerment charges are for the 16 of the 31 students on the bus Monday morning who were under the age of 14, which is the case under Georgia law. Etheridge was booked into the Walton County Detention center at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017 and released two hours later on $25,762 bond – $1,042 on each of the child endangerment charges and $3,042 for the DUI charge.

Walton County School System public relations officer Callen Moore confirmed that Etheridge was fired from the Walton County School System immediately after the charges were filed. She had been employed with WCSD since March of this year.

“The Walton County School District does not tolerate any behavior that jeopardizes the safety of our students,” Moore said in a statement. “We appreciate the swift action of our transportation department and local law enforcement officers to ensure the safety of our students.”

WCSO reported that a “concerned individual had advised the authorities that a bus driver was allegedly impaired while driving her school bus that morning and was operating her school bus recklessly.” Two deputies with WCSO, including School Resource Officer Charlie Rodriquez, responded to Loganville Middle School where field sobriety tests were conducted. She is reported to drive for the route covering Loganville Middle and Loganville High schools. According to the incident report, Etheridge had a BAC of 0.043 at 10.13 a.m. She had driven the students to school that morning during the hours of 6.09 and 7:38 a.m.. Capt. Darren Vinson, who heads up the youth investigations division for WCSO, confirmed that the test was given within the 3 hour time frame of Etheridge driving with students on the bus. Local attorney Eric Crawford said that under Georgia law, 0.04 is the legal limit for commercial vehicles.
Bottles of alcohol entered into evidence in connection with a Walton County School bus driver charged with driving under the influence and child endangerment. Photo credit: Walton County Sheriff’s Office

“A school bus in Georgia requires a commercial driver’s license. When operating a commercial vehicle, you can be charged with DUI per se if your blood/breath alcohol concentration is 0.04 grams or greater within 3 hours of driving,” Crawford said, adding, however you can be charged with DUI less safe for any amount of alcohol in your system that makes you a less safe driver. 

Etheridge was allegedly found to be in possession of several bottles of alcohol as well as prescription pills, including Zolpidem and Buspirone.
Vinson said Etheridge is set to appear in the Walton County Probate Court at 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 31, 2017.

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