State Patrol inspects buses for safe rides to school - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

State Patrol inspects buses for safe rides to school

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How safe is the bus your child rides to school every day? 

Most recently, KWWL took an in-depth look at how school district transportation centers maintain their own safety checks. But, in Iowa, every school bus is also inspected by the state twice a year.

The inspections typically happen once in the fall and once in the spring. The Iowa Department of Education along with Iowa State Patrol are in charge of these checks. 

Iowa State Patrol invited KWWL during their inspections at the Cedar Falls School District Transportation Center to see what goes into a typical bus check. 

With a pull of a handle, Iowa State Patrol Trooper Jon Stickney is making sure every exit on your child's bus is prepared for an emergency.

"It's functionable," said Trooper Stickney. "Means it opens up clearly, it has no obstructions. And I like to say if a kindergartener can open this window...then it's working. If they can't, then we got some issues and we usually discuss that with the districts. But like in this window, the alarm is going off. And just with a finger touch it's easy to open."

Inside the Cedar Falls District garage, troopers are checking 80 to 100 vehicles used to transport students. Troopers check everything from lights to window alarms. 

Trooper Stickney says the most common safety failure they see during their inspections is door alarms. 

"Your older buses, it's an electrical issue so it may not be working," said Trooper Stickney. "It's an easy fix. It's usually fixed the same day we find those violations. There are some districts that we do see unfortunately, maybe the driver didn't do a pre-trip. And through our inspection process, we can tell whether that door has been opened or not. Whether there's dust on it, and it hasn't been moved and we know that the bus went out that morning. We can tell if that window has even been touched. Those drivers have to open and close those windows before their trips and after their trips-per regulation."

If they see a failure during inspections, the district is also made aware. 

"Sometimes what we find unfortunately...is you know if I can't get a window open...my question to the district is, is this driver opening this window every day?" said Trooper Stickney. "Because if I can't get a window open, something is telling me that the window...wasn't checked that day."

For Trooper Stickney, it's more than just an inspection. He also has children who ride the bus. 

"Well, you know I think of my children," said Trooper Stickney. "I have two boys that ride the bus. And if there is a fire on the bus or if there is a crash that involves injuries or a major crash...the importance is one - do these students need to get off the bus? And if they do, we need to make sure that these districts train these kids to get off the bus in all situations. You know because we can train these kids in a repetition style manner doing it the same way. But if they don't know how to open up the top hatches, the roof hatches, don't know how to open up the windows properly, we're going to have issues, because not every crash is the same."

Trooper Stickney stresses school districts need to train students that there's more than just one exit. 

"We always train to go out the back but do we usually train to go out the sides?" said Trooper Stickley. "We need to urge districts to incorporate more training with their kids so they know that these exits are available for use if they have to."

Iowa State Patrol says if there are continuing problems with a certain district, they can do surprise inspections with the Department of Education. 

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