(WWBT) - The Virginia Department of Education says as many as 4,000 school buses may need retrofitting to install a safety device that prevents the parking brake from accidentally disengaging.
"The safety of students is the department's highest priority and the department will work with school divisions, manufacturers and school bus dealers to make sure that all non-compliant buses are brought into full compliance with the state Board of Education's equipment specifications as quickly as possible," said Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples in a news release.
The three leading manufacturers of Virginia school buses are IC Bus, Blue Bird, and Thomas. VDOE says it became aware of the issue last month while VDOE transportation staff was conducting routine bus reviews. State officials added that this is not something that would have been seen or detected during normal school bus inspections by either school bus drivers or division transportation mechanics.
The VDOE says school bus transmissions do not have a "park" setting.
"After stopping the bus, the driver places the bus in neutral, and then pulls the parking brake valve on the dashboard," VDOE said in a news release. "Without the interlock, the parking brake could accidentally disengage — for example, if a student were to slip and inadvertently fall against the brake valve."
Thomas released the following statement:
Richmond Public Schools have about 99 buses that are impacted:
Henrico says they have 176 buses are impacted:
Petersburg says 16 buses are impacted:
Chesterfield says 220 buses are impacted:
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