MADISON, Wis. — When Tim Cullen was a board member for Janesville (Wis.) School District, he ushered in a policy to require lap-shoulder belts on new large school buses used to transport the district's students.
Now, as a state senator, Cullen is pushing for a statewide mandate. He has been circulating legislation to make seat belts mandatory on all newly purchased buses that will be used to transport schoolchildren in Wisconsin.
“The fact that we are required to wear seat belts in cars, yet allow our children to roll down the road at 55 miles per hour without them, is completely outrageous to me,” Cullen said. “Schoolchildren are injured every year in school bus crashes. It only makes sense to me that we can prevent more injuries by requiring seat belts, especially three-point lap-and-shoulder safety belts that are required in cars.”
Cullen’s proposed bill would require newly manufactured school buses to be equipped with belts, and it would require that passengers wear them. School buses already operating would not have to be retrofitted with belts.
The bill would also create a grant program to help school districts defray the cost of equipping new school buses with seat belts.
Channel 3000 reports that the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) has a policy that opposes mandating seat belts for school buses. A current board member for Janesville School District has proposed a board resolution to ask WASB to change its policy to support belts on buses.
Meanwhile, Allen Fugate, operations manager for Van Galder Bus, which provides transportation service for the Janesville district, told the Janesville Gazette that many students don’t buckle up in the buses equipped with seat belts.
“The high school students absolutely refuse to wear them,” Fugate told the newspaper.