Every day, you assume the school bus your children ride is safe, but is the bus as safe as it could be?
The Ohio State Highway Patrol puts Ohio school buses through rigorous annual inspections and two to three surprise checks.
"We check all these seats, all the way to the rear," said one patrol mechanic. School districts know exactly when troopers will inspect and the inspection manual provided to each district clearly states, "All buses must be maintained without any defects."
"That's why we give them that option of knowing, 'We're coming for your annual bus inspection at this date and time.' Most bus garages, what we find out, it's not lack of funding. It's more lack of planning and preventative maintenance issues on their school bus supervisor end," said Sgt. Jeff Conley, Ohio Highway Patrol Commercial Enforcement Coordinator, Findlay District.
In Bowling Green where the last two levies failed, superintendent Dr. Ann McVey says her district is larger than most, at 118 square miles. She says several of the buses have over 200,000 miles and cost $75,000 to $85,000 each.
"We have not been able to replace buses in the same fashion as before," McVey said.
The State of Ohio stopped funding school transportation several years ago. Now, districts must buy and maintain their own buses.
"Ideally there should be no violations," said Springfield superintendent Kathryn Hott.
Hott admits there's room for improvement, but says lack of funding is a factor.
"Aging of buses is a financial burden for school systems, because obviously they get a lot of wear and tear."
Ohio's Board of Education transportation chief points to the state's record, saying Ohio has had one death on a bus in 46 years. In the last three years, there have been zero fatalities outside a bus.
"There are no corners cut. The bus is either safe or it's not. There's no slack given. There's no quarter given for an unsafe vehicle being out on the road," said Bob Harmon, Ohio State Department of Education Transportation Coordinator.
Look up the reports for your district and/or call your school district to see your child's school bus violations. Contact the members of the school board in your district and ask them about transportation maintenence. Talk to the transportation director, the superintendent. Ask to see the reports. Go the the meetings.
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