Legislators Call For More Discussion About School Bus Safety

During the last session of the General Assembly, a bill requiring all school buses to have seat belts by 2015 did not pass.

A school bus in a parking lot

Photo: Bill McChesney (Flickr)

A study committee will investigate school bus safety belts.

School bus drivers will have new duties when classes begin in the fall, but some lawmakers say the discussion of school bus safety needs to go much further.

New legislation requires school bus drivers to teach students on the bus how to use their seat belts and conduct an evacuation drill at least once per semester. Failing to do so could cost the driver their job.

Indianapolis Democratic Representative John Bartlett says the demonstration does not do any good if the bus does not have seat belts in the first place.

“And I don’t think that we should mandate adults to wear seatbelts and not allow our children to have that option,” Bartlett says.

Bartlett filed a bill last session requiring all school buses to have seat belts by 2015. He says he was told it was the cost of such a measure that prevented its passage.

Yet a National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration report shows that seat belts do not necessarily improve safety in school buses.  Columbia City Republican Senator Jim Banks, who cosponsored the school bus safety bill, says that is why more information is needed.

“Even since we’ve been out of session we’ve heard of the tragic stories of school bus accidents and the question being raised: ‘If seat belts were installed on the school bus would that have saved a child from injury or even worse?’ And that’s all part of the discussion,” Banks says.

Banks expects the issue to come up next session.

Brandon Smith, IPBS

Brandon Smith, IPBS has previously worked as a reporter and anchor for KBIA Radio in Columbia, MO, and at WSPY Radio in Plano, IL as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.

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