Should seat belts be required on state school buses? Some Illinois lawmakers think so

Springfield, Illinois — An Illinois lawmaker wants to make seat belts on school buses a requirement in the wake of a fatal crash in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that sparked concern about bus safety.

Democratic state Rep. Lou Lang will propose legislation requiring three-point seat belts on new, large school buses. There is no federal seat belt mandate, and only six states have such laws. Soon-to-be U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth is also pushing seat belt legislation.

Illinois Association for Pupil Transportation president Michael Reinders opposes the legislation, saying seat belts could slow down the emergency exit process in the case of a fire.

“What if you end up with more deaths because students can’t get out of the bus fast enough?” Reinders said.

And bus driver Mike Nilson says enforcing the seat belts would be difficult.

While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it thinks the current bus design is safe — less than 1 percent of U.S. crashes involve school buses — it can be better.

“School bus crash data show that compartmentalization (padded seats) has been effective at protecting school bus passengers,” Naperville Community Unit District 203 spokeswoman Michelle Fregoso said.

Cost estimates for seat belts in large buses range between $5,000 and $10,000.

 

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