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CLEAR LAKE, Iowa - Last December, a school bus was backing out of a driveway in rural Pottawatamie County when it went into a ditch and caught fire, claiming the lives of the driver and a 16 year old girl.
Now, the student's parents are asking the state of Iowa to update its bus and driver laws.
However, districts in the area, including Clear Lake, are in full compliance with the laws to make sure incidents like these don't happen.
Director of Transportation, Buildings and Grounds Troy Laudner, as well as bus driver Garry Miller, make sure the students they transport daily arrive safely.
"Our drivers have to do a pre-trip inspection every day, and a post-trip inspection every day. And our drivers are taught if there's anything mechanical going on with their bus that they radio to our bus mechanic, and it's looked at instantly," Laudner says.
In addition, the state inspects buses every 6 months. If a repair needs to be made, it must be completed within 30 days of the inspection.
For current drivers, as well as new applicants, they must have a class B commercial drivers license, get air brake, passenger and school bus endorsements, pass a 17-hour online safety course and physical exam, among other requirements.
The parents of the girl who died in the accident are questioning whether the bus driver was fit to be behind the wheel, pointing out that he was in his mid 70's, and was due for back surgery the week of the crash. This isn't surprising to Miller, who is a retiree, and says older, mostly-retired farmers are driving school buses to supplement their income and because they have more time compared to younger people.
"A lot of the folks that are driving the bus are retired like myself, or they have their own business, and are able to be gone for a couple hours in the morning and a couple in the afternoon," Miller adds.
The Clear Lake district did have one bus that was involved in a minor accident last spring, but neither the driver nor students on board were injured.
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