The Investigators

Aug 8, 2013 1:21 PM by Tom McNamara

Back to school means bus inspections for TUSD

TUCSON - Back to School is definitely here. You've probably already noticed the streets getting more crowded with school buses. But, how can you be sure the bus your student is on is as safe as it needs to be? It's a question the News 4 Tucson Investigators wanted to get answered.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators caught up with officers from the Arizona Department of Public Safety, as they inspected school buses in the city's largest district this summer.

These officers say the safety of the students is their top priority. But during those school bus inspections, we discovered at least one safety feature isn't always there.

As the buses roll in, officers rolled into action. They check everything from brakes, stop signs, flashers, emergency exits, even the horn.

They do all this, to make sure the more than 300 TUSD buses were safe for a new school year.

Officer Karl Jensen tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, the goal is to make sure students are safe on their way to, and from school.

"We don't want them to have a bad day. And, if they end up having a bad day, we want to make sure that they can get out of the bus, and that they can feel safe. Likewise, I think parents want to be able to feel safe, to know that their children are on a safe bus."

One thing the News 4 Tucson Investigators noticed, as DPS officers did their inspection - some of the buses had seatbelts, but, others not. DPS says, that's because the law doesn't require it.

"A lot of these buses are built kind of like they've been built for years, with the high backs. The thinking is, the occupant will pretty much go forward and probably hit that, but not to the point where they will injure themselves," Jensen says.

Another safety feature on some of these TUSD buses - the so-called "No Child Left Behind Button." It's a button the driver has to push, once they make sure all students are off the bus at the end of their run. But, not all buses have them.

"There are buses that are older that don't have that no child left behind. It's a state law that they must check the back of the bus. It's not a state law that every bus must have a no child left behind," Jensen says.

In addition to making sure the buses themselves are ready to roll, school bus drivers are also tested.

"We should be able to trust that the person that has our children is competent and trustworthy, as well as the bus is trustworthy."

When it comes to keeping kids cool, the News 4 Tucson Investigators also discovered, some TUSD buses are equipped with air conditioning, while others are not.

"Nothing in Arizona says it has to have an a/c, but it has to have a defrost. The defrost has to be working. We do check that as part of our checklist," Jensen says.

For its part, TUSD says they follows federal and state standards in bus safety and has numerous procedures in place that prioritize the safety and welfare of our students.

They add, all of the 59 TUSD buses that serve special education students are equipped with seatbelts. Other buses incorporate the industry standard of high back seating to protect students.

According to the district, 85% percent of TUSD's buses have A/C and the district will receive 24 new air-conditioned buses in the fall. All buses without A/C are being permanently phased out of the fleet.

Additionally, TUSD says they have an integrated placard system - with a 100 percent success rate - that requires drivers inspect the entire bus to ensure no child is left behind. New buses to the fleet incorporate a button system.

Also, starting this fall, TUSD buses will be installed with GPS devices to provide increased security through real time tracking of our buses. The district tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, the daily safe transport of their students remains a priority.

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