Drunk School Bus Driver Avoids Jail

Betty Burden sentenced to 30 months probation

Wednesday, Jan 26, 2011  |  Updated 9:30 PM CDT
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A former Mount Prospect school bus driver avoided jail time and was sentenced Wednesday to 30 months of probation for driving under the influence of alcohol.

In addition to the probation, Betty Burden, 55, must submit to alcohol counseling and complete 480 hours of community service.  Burden must also pay $1,720 in fines, said Cook County Judge John Scotillo.

Burden had faced up to three years in prison after pleading guilty earlier this month to aggravated DUI.

"I need to be sure the punishment fits this crime," said Scotillo, adding that he believed Burden didn't belong in the Illinois Department of Corrections."

Burden was arrested and charged last March after a colleague of hers called the transportation coordinator for the school district to report that Burden's breath smelled of alcohol.  She later admitted that she was drunk when she drive over seven miles on her route, dropping off roughly 50 students along the way.

Burden also admitted to authorities that she'd had two vodka tonics prior to driving the route from Lions Park Elementary School.  Officials said her blood alcohol concentration after her arrest was .225, nearly three times over the legal limit.

Testimonials at Burden's hearing Wednesday included the mother of a boy on the bus, who noted that no one was injured, as well as the bus driver that reported smelling alcohol on Burden's breath.

Burden, who drove for School District 57 from 1991 to 1999, and again in 2008, as well as her supervisor, were fired from the district for failing to alert police immediately after being told she might be drunk.

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