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Inspections Find 1 in 4 Wake School Buses Have Safety Problems

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RALEIGH — People expect their children to be safe on a school bus, but recent inspections found that may not be true. Nearly 1 in 4 Wake County school buses were found to have serious mechanical problems.

Among other things, inspectors found that the buses did not comply with a 1996 manufacturer's recall which involved placing a protective cover on each bus' door arm. The cover helps prevent a child's clothing or back-pack from catching on the door. One child in Indiana was killed when his backback caught on a handle, causing him to fall and be pulled under his bus.

The recall item is just one of many repairs that Wake County mechanics are making. State inspectors estimate that safety and mechanical problems exist in nearly a fourth of the school district's fleet. With 700 buses transporting 50,000 children twice a day, officials determined the problems need to be fixed now.

Director of Public Instruction Derek Graham says there was a variety of problems.

Inspectors note that the bus's tires and brakes were in good shape, but that offers little comfort to parents who put their kids on an otherwise unsafe school bus each morning.

Sharon Potter says she was surprised at the inspection results.

Parent Tom Bauso says it worries him that children might have been unsafe.

County mechanics are working to repair engines, transmissions, and steering problems as quickly as possible. They hope to install all of the door safety mechanisms over the next five business days.

Wyatt Harper, director of transportation for the school system says there will always be problems with mechanical items, and the school system will repair them.

By comparison; Inspectors checked 31 buses in Durham and found four problems. All of the Durham problems were repaired the same day they were found.

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Stephanie Hawco, Reporter
Mark Copeland, Photographer
MJ Ainsley, Web Editor

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