ROCKY HILL, Conn. — In a ceremony here last week, Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell discussed a recently passed school bus seat belt bill while paying tribute to a student killed in a January bus crash.
“Sadly, in a very real sense we are brought together by tragedy,” Rell said at Rocky Hill High School. “And yet, because we are a community, because we share in the loss and because we are united in the desire to prevent such tragedies in the future, it is our natural instinct to respond.”
Vikas Parikh, 16, a student at the school, died Jan. 9 when his school bus plunged down an embankment after a highway collision.
The bus was not equipped with seat belts, and the crash spurred efforts to pass legislation to require three-point belts on school buses in Connecticut.
That bill was voted down by a committee because of cost concerns, but Rep. Tony Guerrera then introduced another bill to reimburse school bus operations for 50 percent of whatever they pay in the state’s 6-percent sales tax for new school buses equipped with three-point belts.
The incentive program was recently signed into law by Rell.
“This practical, common-sense bill establishes a program to help school districts all over our state buy school buses equipped with three-point safety belts,” Rell said at the Rocky Hill ceremony. “It is not a mandate – it does not impose costly new requirements in the face of extraordinarily difficult budgets. It strikes a critical balance between incentive and choice.”
The state Department of Motor Vehicles will begin offering the program in July 2011. It will be funded through a $50-increase in the fees paid for restoring suspended or revoked driver’s licenses, commercial driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations.
The program will run at least through 2018. During the 2018 legislative session, lawmakers will hold a hearing to decide whether it should be continued.