Safety Belts And Texas School Buses
The safety of children when they are on their way to and from school is always a vital concern among parents, teachers, and school administrators. Every day in Texas, roughly 1.5 million children use a bus as their primary transportation for getting to school or another related activity.
The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) has stated that “every child on every school bus should have a three-point seatbelt.” Many school bus accidents in Texas have included fatalities and injuries that could have been prevented if the buses had been equipped with three-point seat belts. For example, in April of 2017, 23 fourth-graders in Lumberton were hospitalized after a collision involving their school bus, a pickup truck and an 18-wheel tractor-trailer rig.
The Texas Education Agency features a bus accident reporting system to track the number of transportation-related accidents involving school children. The system utilizes an annual survey to gather information on accidents involving school buses operated or contracted for use by school districts and charter schools, as required by Texas law. TEA data reflects that school children have been serious hurt or killed when the bus they were in was involved in a collision.
Safety belts not only protect our children from the result of collisions, but they protect them from each other. Current research shows that safety belts increase discipline and reduce cases of bullying on school buses.
In 2017, the Texas Senate finally acknowledged the seriousness of this problem by enacting SB 693 (the “Act”). The Act requires three-point seat belts on all new school buses purchased by a school district that are model year 2017 or newer. It applies to a school activity bus, multifunction school activity bus, or school-chartered bus. The legislation went into effect on September 1, 2017 and amends current law relating to three-point belts. The new law doesn’t require older buses to be retrofitted with three-point belts, but any 2017 or newer bus models must include them.
Dallas County schools, Beaumont Independent School District (I.S.D.) Houston I.S.D. and Austin I.S.D. have announced that they will follow the legislation without state funding. Hopefully, the new law’s bottom line will result in Texas students having a safer ride to and from school.
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