Hillsborough bus drivers test routes, safety

Tampa, Florida -- With changes to the roads and bus routes every year, Hillsborough County school bus drivers have to adapt. 10 News spent the morning with one bus driver who hit the streets to do just that. And she's telling people in their cars to watch out -- buses are back.

The fleet of 1,100 buses that bring 92,000 kids to school every day is one of the biggest moving pieces for Hillsborough County schools. And Monday was all about working out the kinks.

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"Heads up, be alert we're on the road," said Karla Bowick who's been driving Hillsborough County school buses for 24 years. "You have to love what you do and be good at what you do because if you're just out here and figure it's a job, it's not for you."

Karla and hundreds of other drivers hit the streets Monday to test and learn their new routes before school starts tomorrow morning.

"We're timing our runs, we're trying to get out the glitches," she said.

Glitches like flat tires, dead batteries and broken seat belts -- all of which Hillsborough County school buses faced today on this "dry run."

Karla says that's the point: to find out the problems ahead of time and get them fixed because, "we have lives in our hands."

"It's a lot on the driver. Not only are we transporting kids, we're actually in traffic, and we have to pay attention to everything that goes on around us and yet get the children to and from school safely."

See Also: Is district fixing problem of too-old buses?

If anything goes wrong on the bus, there's an accident or a problem with a child, it's easy to report, Karla said. There are two mounted cameras on the interior of every Hillsborough school bus.

"If there's any issues with any complaints, the camera will tell it," she said.

Karla said in her more than two decades driving for Hillsborough County Schools, she's had drivers speed around her while the bus stop sign was up, and she's had them honk and give her the finger. But to drivers on the road this year, she asks them to remember, "we're out here with their precious cargo and they need to take that into consideration and be patient."

So did working out the kinks work?

Karla was able to find a couple of those twists and turns she wasn't expecting and them all worked out for Tuesday, so when her kids walk off that bus, they'll be at their schools safe.

PHOTOS: Your Back-to-School pics!


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