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September 02, 2010  |   Comments (8)   |   Post a comment

Texas school bus seat belt law hits roadblocks

Photo courtesy of M2K/Syntec Seating Solutions.

Photo courtesy of M2K/Syntec Seating Solutions.

AUSTIN — Although a law requiring lap-shoulder belts on all new school buses in the state went into effect yesterday, agency officials say the law cannot be enforced if funding for the purchase of seat belt-equipped buses is not released.

The law was passed in 2007 after a charter bus crash in which two Beaumont high school students were killed when their bus overturned.

According to the statute, "A school district is required to comply with Subsection (e) only to the extent that the Texas Education Agency pays or commits to pay the district for expenses incurred in complying with that subsection.  The Texas Education Agency may make grants of appropriated money for the purpose of paying school districts under this subsection."

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) originally appropriated $10 million with which to reimburse school districts for the purchase of three-point seat belt-equipped buses. But after all state agencies were ordered to cut 5 percent of their budgets, that amount was reduced to $3.6 million.

TEA officials told the Associated Press they decided to make cuts from the funding as it was better to cut a program that had not started.

While some districts will not need to purchase new buses for a few years, others may begin vying for TEA funding as soon as it becomes available. TEA, which is awaiting notification from the Texas Legislative Budget Board to release the funds, is suspected by some to be obstructing the seat belt issue by making cuts to that program, the Dallas Morning News reports. Legislative Budget Board officials say that notification should come within a day or so.

Some districts, including Dallas County Schools, have gone ahead and purchased seat belt-equipped buses with their own funds. "We feel that the addition of three-point seatbelts is an extremely positive decision for Dallas County Schools," Transportation Director Rex Cole told SBF. "We are always looking for proactive ways to enhance our fleet. Our steadfast goal is to provide the safest transportation possible for the students and districts we serve. We believe that seat belts on buses are just one more step toward meeting that goal."

The district plans to have its entire fleet outfitted with three-point seat belts in six or seven years, Cole said.


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do you know that 4 year old pre-k students don't have enough sense to stay on the seat when bus hit the speed limit 60 on the hwy? OK, Don't put seat belts for older - high school kids - who should know better, but 4-5 year old babies flying around the bus - is not a doog picture for a perent

Mila Petty    |    Dec 16, 2013 05:43 AM

To my opinion, I believe that they are not necessary. As a student myself, I believe that it is all up to the students discipline and supervision. It would be terribly horrifying to find out that not even that your child got killed, but your child got killed because he/she were trapped in a seatbelt. For any emergencies, it shouldn't be tolerable.

Adryanna Hawkins    |    Oct 06, 2013 12:02 PM

If this law gets funded, all involved are going to be sorry!! I moved here from New Jersey where they enacted such a law in 1994 and it has been a disaster. First of all, the kids ignore it. In addition, the kids soon learn that it's "fun" to take the opposite ends of the belts and stretch them across the aisle so their friends in the back have to climb over them. Imagine what would happen in the event of an accident. The law in New Jersey had to be amended to say that any child injured in an accident as a result of not wearing a belt cannot sue the driver or the school district. When the law was first passed it did not have this provision, and school bus drivers were quitting in droves until the law was changed. I hope for the sake of the drivers and the schools this law has such a provision. I drove a school bus part time in NJ for years prior to and after that law was passed so I speak from personal experience.

Lawrence Peck    |    Sep 18, 2010 03:30 PM

The reason it is reported as a school bus is because of use to transport schoolchildren. I agree that any school, contractor, daycare vehicle transporting schoolchildren is a school bus and subject to state inspections. Would agree helpful that spacific vehicle type and when and when not seat belt equipped also reported. Myself can find no issue with inexpensive lap belts, in fact behind the scenes and politics out of the way neither do providers -- The lap belt is a safe device on school buses and also remains the most populer seat restraint on new school bus purchases. Savings money that way helps insure the multible benefits seat belts offer and at considerable less cost. An aide? How is it so many districts do well without an aide on their mainstream buses? Provide actual student management training, enforce policy, keep the environment safe for children and also a hostile free workplace for bus drivers, and always - ALWAYS - train that the bus driver is in charge of the bus. See free presentation at this link, Post #12: (After downloaded and saved to a file this presentation can be opened in Adobe Reader. Set to Full Screen view and use mouse clicks to navigate the presentation forward and backward. Key Esc to exit the presentation.)

Jkraemer    |    Sep 05, 2010 12:17 PM

I looked into converting our bus fleet to three point belts. You will reduce your seating by 1/6. For a 72 passenger bus you are now looking at 60 passenger capacity. To have a contractor convert our buses we were looking at about $20k per bus. My plan to enforce the use of the seat belts was to hire an aide for each bus responsible for helping the kids in and out of the belts. You would want an aide on the bus if there were ever a situation in which the kids had to get off the bus now. The driver alone would not be able to cut the belts fast enough to save all the kids from; a burning bus, a sinking bus, or a bus on Rail tracks.

Rusty Roberts    |    Sep 03, 2010 07:05 AM

Glad somone else noticed that that was not a school bus!!!!

michael mcclure    |    Sep 03, 2010 06:58 AM

What reduction in seating capacity is anticipated? What is the added cost per bus? How are the school districts proposing to enforce the requirement for students to use the seat belts?

Dave Franklin    |    Sep 03, 2010 06:28 AM

Correction to story - the bus that overturned and killed two Beaumont ISD students was not a school bus. It was a commercial bus being used to transport students on an activity trip. The commercial bus was painted yellow and is often incorrectly reported as being a school bus.

Don Paull    |    Sep 03, 2010 06:26 AM

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