Shelton school bus driver police accused of falling asleep at the wheel appears in court

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SHELTON — A Shelton school bus driver appeared in court after being charged with falling asleep at the wheel.

Paul Pixley, 55, of Derby, is accused of falling asleep while driving a bus that had 30 kids on it at one point.

According to police, on December 16 police pulled over a school bus after reports that it was swerving all over the road and that the driver appeared to be asleep. The bus was pulled over at 3:40 p.m. near the intersection of Nichols Avenue and Earl Street.

Police said no children were on the bus, which came from Shelton Intermediate School, at the time that the bus was pulled over, but the investigation revealed that 30 kids had been on the bus that day, driven by Pixley. Apparently, they got off at earlier stops because Pixley kept falling asleep.

Pixley was charged with 30 counts of risk of injury to a minor, reckless endangerment in the second degree, reckless driving and breach of peace in the second degree.

During his arraignment, Pixley asked to speak, but the judge denied his request.

His public defender, attorney Jonathan Gable, noted that Pixley has no criminal record and asked for a written promise to appear, but given the seriousness of the charge the judge said his bond would remain at $75,000.

The judge also ruled that Pixley must also undergo substance abuse evaluation and treatment, if necessary, and he isn’t permitted to drive a bus while his case is pending. His next court date is Wednesday, January 18.

According to the arrest warrant affidavit, all Shelton school buses are equipped with video and audio recording devices. Police said Pixley can be seen on video sleeping and snoring in the bus  just before his first run of the afternoon to pick up high school students.

They said in a span of just over an hour and a half on December 16, Pixley was seen on the bus’s video falling asleep in the driver seat 10 times, and twice his foot slipped off the brake and the bus began to move. There were students on board at that time.

Later, on the way to pick up the middle school students at the Shelton Intermediate School, video shows Pixley pulling the bus over, unbuckling his seat and then starting to yell incoherently at an empty bus. When students from the Shelton Intermediate School were picked up, he fell asleep on the bus for four seconds before he jammed on the brakes, causing students to be thrown forward in their seats. When a student yelled at him he responded: “I’m not sleeping.”

The arrest warrant also revealed that the school system’s transportation manager, James Burns, told police that nine days before this incident, on December 7, Pixley fell asleep behind the wheel while stopped at an intersection and rolled backwards into a car behind him. Police looked at the video to confirm that.

When police showed up at his Derby home to speak with him, his girlfriend said he was at a methadone clinic and would be home later. When he did come home and met with police, he said he was taking 80 mg of methadone,  which can be used to treat moderate to severe pain or be prescribed for those who are addicted to narcotics. He told police that he had a drug problem in the past, but that he does not now.

A side effect of methadone can be sleepiness.

Pixley does not have any prior motor vehicle or criminal record except for an infraction on August 5 of this year in Milford, when he was given a citation for “failure to drive in the proper lane” when he was involved in an accident on Boston Post Road.

The Shelton Public School District released a statement on Tuesday night that said, in part:

The Board of Education is grateful to the Police Department for their focused investigation that is bringing a resolution to the incident that endangered our students’ safety. The School System will insist that Landmark Transportation adhere to established security measures to ensure our transportation provider’s procedures observe strict driver guidelines. Be assured that this driver will never drive for the Shelton Public School System ever again.

Meanwhile, Greg Walter, a vice president for Landmark Student Transportation, which transports Shelton students, told FOX 61 that Pixley has been fired, but not as a result of the arrest. Walter said Pixley has not shown up for work since police pulled him off of the bus route on December 16.

Walter said Pixley was drug tested and had a background check conducted in July, when he was hired. But, the arrest warrant states Pixley told police that he did not disclose on his Landmark job application that he was on methadone because they didn’t ask.