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Is your child riding a school bus flagged as unsafe?

October 10, 2017 by Steven M. Gursten

Report finds 1 in 5 children riding in an unsafe school bus after failing safety inspections. If you’re a parent, here is how to find out if the school bus your child is riding to school in is safe or not

Unsafe school bus

Is your child going to school on an unsafe school bus?

A new report from the Michigan State Police says there’s an approximately 20% chance your child could be.

State safety inspectors determined that from September 1, 2016, to August 31, 2017, almost 3,000 school buses in Michigan had safety defects. That’s out of 16,000 school buses in use for public and private schools.

Even worse, of the 3,000 buses that were found to have safety issues, nearly 2,100 school buses were immediately ordered off the road because they were determined to be too dangerous to continue to drive on our roads.

I’ve been litigating truck accident and bus accident cases for 23 years. I am also the past-president of the AAJ truck and bus accident litigation group. I’ve been writing about the dangerous number of unsafe trucks on our roads for years. But during all this time, there never was a public safety issue about buses — and school buses in particular.

Until now.

I was quoted in a recent CBS News story on unsafe buses, and last month I wrote in this Auto Lawyer blog about how your children’s bus driver also could be unsafe.

In other words, the problem of unsafe school buses seems to be getting worse, not better.

How does the state of Michigan determine when school bus is unsafe for children?

In its annual inspections, the State Police assesses every bus’s operational lights, brakes, steering components and suspension, among other things. Based on the results, the State Police classifies each district’s buses in three categories for its annual report:

  • A “Pass” means the bus is safe to drive.
  • A yellow tag means a bus is still operational but there’s a 60-day window to fix what’s wrong with it. Those types of defects can include latches that don’t work as intended or leaks resulting from rust or cracks, according to the state’s bus inspection manual.
  • A red tag means a bus cannot be used for transportation until the defects are repaired. Examples of defects that earn a red tag include almost anything to do with brakes, steering, and red or yellow flashing lights.

How many unsafe school buses does my school district have?

The following chart shows the specific data on collision/comprehensive premiums, payouts and surplus:

School District/Contractor Name Number of yellow-tagged buses Number of red-tagged buses Total buses in the fleet
Detroit City School District 34 70 348
Contractor Fleet Bus 17 67 297
Huron Valley Schools (Commerce Twp., Highland Twp., Milford, and White Lake Twp.) 10 36 87
Southfield Public School District 6 27 154
Kent ISD 9 25 97
Genesee ISD 6 24 152
Rockford Public Schools 10 20 80
FiveCAP (Middle West Michigan) 4 20 28
Cedar Springs Public Schools 11 17 65
Gladwin Community Schools 0 15 23
Conner Creek Academy East (Warren) 0 15 15
Capitol Area Community Service 3 15 30
Pontiac City School District 10 14 65
Hesperia Community Schools (Newaygo and Oceana counties) 1 14 18
Lakewood Public Schools (Lake Odessa) 4 13 23
Meridian Public Schools (Sanford) 1 11 26
Ludington Area School District 1 10 21
Lutheran H.S. Association (Macomb Twp., Farmington Hills, Westland) 0 10 10
Jenison Public Schools 2 10 36

Look closer and you’ll see that some of these school districts have either up to or more than half of their total fleet red-tagged (Capitol Area, FiveCAP, Gladwin, Lakewood), while every single one of the buses in two districts (Lutheran H.S. Association and Conner Creek Academy East) got red-tagged.

Meanwhile, of the 1,521 dealership buses — new buses from dealerships that hadn’t been assigned to school districts as of the state’s inspections — 35 got a yellow flag and 56 were red tagged.

The full report can be found here.

How to tell if my child’s riding on an unsafe school bus?

If you have a smartphone, you can immediately find out whether the bus your child is riding to school is safe.

As part of an automated system to track school bus inspection results, the State Police began affixing a QR code to the service door of every school bus it inspected in Michigan. To see how a bus was rated in its last inspection, all you have to do is scan the QR code on your phone.

A spokesman for the Michigan State Police Vehicle Enforcement Division told Michigan Radio that this lets parents be an “extra set of eyes” to help the state keep track of buses in need of repair:

“If a parent walks up and scans that QR code, and it comes back red, then they should be contacting the school district.”

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