KHQ Special Report: Who's Behind The Wheel? - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

KHQ Special Report: Who's Behind The Wheel?

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SPOKANE, Wash. - Every morning, thousands of parents in the Inland Northwest drop their children off at the local bus stop, trusting that the bus driver will transport their precious cargo to school safely. While this is exactly what happens the majority of the time, there are unfortunate exceptions.

A few years ago, running a red light nearly put the brakes on one man's career when Spokane's red light cameras caught a school bus driver barreling through an intersection. Police believed it was the first school bus they'd seen running a red since the City installed the cameras.

In the years since, drivers have kept fairly clean records. A public records request found only 24 tickets issued to drivers within Spokane Public Schools between January 1, 2010 and January 7, 2013. That's a small amount considering 219 drivers are currently behind the wheel.

The records show no one was cited for drinking or driving.

But KHQ did find other citations likely issued while driving their personal vehicles including like failure to yield, following too closely, and driving too fast for conditions.

Perhaps the most troubling finds were the criminal offenses including one driver who racked up everything from weapons charges to theft and malicious mischief.

Incidents like this underscore the importance of thorough background checks on bus drivers. So how much involvement does the district have in this process? You might be surprised to find: none.

In an email to KHQ, Spokane Public Schools Spokesperson Terren Roloff wrote "We aren't involved in the vetting process at all."

The district leaves that up to the busing company, Durham School Services, which they've contracted with for more than four years.

Durham School Services' Statement to KHQ:

Durham School Services' priority is the safe transportation of the students we serve. We have been a partner of the Spokane Public Schools for 4½ years and have utilized a screening process for all driver applicants. This process meets or exceeds all state and federal guidelines currently in place for school bus drivers. As part of this applicant process, criminal background checks and driving histories are obtained, and drug/alcohol testing is conducted. Driver qualifications can't be comprehensively summarized in this email on such short notice, but they do include:

  • At least 21 years of age with a valid driver's license for at least 3 years
  • Must meet physical and medical requirements
  • No DUIs, sexual offenses or violent offenses in past 10 years (school district standards may be more stringent)
  • No more than two moving violations in past 3 years (one violation of at least 16 mph over the limit disqualifies applicant)
  • No more than one at-fault accident in past 3 years
  • No major motor vehicle violations in past 3 years
  • The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction monitors driving records, and all bus drivers must sign off on an annual verification of their driving record

In the meantime, officials also point out that bus drivers are now acutely aware of the presence of traffic cameras on their routes, which they hope will curb dangerous driving habits.

Keep in mind, officials with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) also regularly monitors driving records. Plus all bus drivers must sign off on an annual verification of their driving record.

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