A report on school bus safety raised some eyebrows statewide recently. It’s something that state lawmakers should take a closer look at when they return to action in January.
The report said gaps in the bus inspection system makes it possible for unsafe buses to return to service without being fixed.
Why? Iowa rules don’t require re-inspections of buses that have been identified as unsafe. Instead, it’s up to school districts to make sure repairs are done.
State inspectors don’t keep detailed records about what repairs are needed, either.
All of which prompted State Sen. Amanda Ragan, D-Mason City, to say the inspection rules may need a review. And, we believe, a tuneup.
“Would you put your child on a bus if the brakes weren’t fixed? Of course not,” Ragan said. “You trust that transportation to take your child to school. This is not something you can take lightly.”
We have trust in our local districts to keep the buses in safe condition.
From the administrators to the guys who do the hands-on work, they’re all parents and grandparents and good friends of those kids who climb aboard every single day. We can’t imagine anyone putting unsafe buses on the roads.
Still, it’s happening somewhere in the state. The report said in two or more consecutive inspections, similar problems were found on 99 buses, and it appeared those buses were being returned to service without being fixed.
That’s unacceptable, and we agree with Sen. Paul McKinley, R-Chariton, who proposes some type of reprimand or penalty for repeat violators.
We also disagree with the spokesman for the State Department of Education who said the bus inspection system doesn’t have to be overhauled because there have been no major problems, and no bus deaths or injuries linked to maintenance in more than five years. Jeff Barger of the education department said buses already are inspected twice a year. But if buses aren’t being repaired after issues are identified, the system may need some tweaking.
Again, we do believe local transportation systems are cautious and thorough in their approach. There are no reasons to believe otherwise; no one has made it an issue that we’re aware of.
But the next crash caused by faulty equipment might be one that could have been avoided with a ramped-up inspection system.
The Iowa Legislature and safety and education officials should work together to make sure Iowa’s system ensures that parents have complete confidence when they put their kids on those big yellow buses.
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