How your kids' school buses are ensured to be safe - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

How your kids' school buses are ensured to be safe

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PASCO, WA - The wheels on the bus go round and round...and that's thanks in part to State Patrol troopers who inspect every bus in the state before they pick kids up.

Reporter Mackenzie Allen was in Pasco this morning as one of the final inspections took place. Today's inspection took about an hour and covered everything from checking the brakes to making sure there were no tears in any of the seats.

WSP Officer Jim Warren has been making sure school buses are ready to hit the road for about a decade, and with more than a thousand inspections a year, he's about as close to an expert as they come.

First, he'll check the engine.

"We're checking the steering components there when we're having him rock and getting the brake measurements," Officer Warren said.

Then the bus is raised up so he can check underneath.

"Checking just about everything under here that could be a potential problem; exhaust leaks, that type of thing," he explained.

Finally, the brakes are given a real-world test. 

Like the majority of buses Officer Warren inspects, this one passed with flying colors. But what happens when one doesn't?

"It's placed out of service, we notify the mechanics that work closely with us here, if it's something they can fix right away a lot of times it's fixed before we even leave the garage."

Just like a normal car, some of the most common issues are minor things like burned out lights. And while all buses are inspected during the summer, that's not the only time Officer Warren will be popping the hood.

"From about the first of November to the middle of March, we do random inspections," said Officer Warren. "We stop in unannounced and do 25 percent of the fleet at a random inspection to see how they're doing when they don't know we're coming, and they do just as well on the winter inspections as the summer."

But wouldn't buses be even safer if they had seat belts? Not necessarily.

 "The thing I think about is if there was a critical accident, you've got to get all those kids out of those seat belts and if the bus was on fire or if the bus was in a river the kids may not be able to get out themselves. That's what I think about." 

All things that, according to the NTSB, help make school buses 70 times safer than cars when it comes to getting your kids to school.

And yes, that's true: kids are 70 times safer taking the bus to school than riding in a car. And when school bus crashes do happen, the majority of them are caused by the person behind the wheel of the car...not the bus.

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