WBTV Investigates: School buses that failed inspection still on the road

Buses missing the grade

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - You put your children on the bus every morning and trust that the driver will get them to school safely. How much time do you spend thinking about the bus itself? Is it safe and working properly?

Consumer reporter Kristen Miranda went digging through two years worth of bus safety reports from school districts across our area. Her investigation revealed buses that shouldn't have passed inspection, still on the roads.

Other buses just weren't making the grade.

The inspection process is rigorous. Districts are required to inspect the buses every 30 days. The transportation division of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction comes in once a year to inspect 10% of every districts buses and gives each district a number grade.

"Zero is a perfect score. We see most districts coming in around the 20's or 30's," said department director Derek Graham.

The goal of the monthly inspections is to find and fix little problems before they become big ones. The goal of the annual inspections is to be sure the districts are keeping students safe. Sometimes the state finds things the districts miss.

Bus 1284 in Mecklenburg County had a few small problems including an improperly secured First Aid kit. But 284 in Gaston County was found to have so many violations it was taken off the road by the state last year.

Two years ago, Mecklenburg County scored a 25 and last year received a score of 35.

That's a good score.

On the opposite end of that spectrum last year was Cabarrus County. It scored a 91 last year and one bus in particular was the worst we found on the roads.

Bus 120 scored a 218 and it is the bus one mom in Harrisburg puts her little girl on every day.

"It's scary, I was shocked," Stacey said.

"When you get scores that are 100 or more on a single vehicle, that's a problem. It means somebody slipped up or didn't pay attention. It isn't supposed to happen that way," Graham said.

We went straight to Cabarrus County transportation director Dan Meehan for answers.

"I don't want to say the buses were in bad shape but I think we had a lack of checking the details," Meehan said.

He took the job after the poor inspection report came in and has made many changes since.

"We realized we were doing something wrong. Safety has to come first. I'm very proud of this department, though. After that report they were down and people looked down on them. They came together as a team and they've improved their techniques and we can feel our kids are safe on the roads," Meehan said.

The district has already had it's inspection for this year and scored a 25.

We wanted to make it very easy for you to find your school district's bus safety scores. Click on the interactive map to see bus safety scores from across the viewing area.

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