Safety

Tennessee Lawmaker Pulls Mandatory School Bus Seat Belt Bill

Nicole Schlosser
Posted on May 9, 2017
Rep. JoAnne Favors removed her proposed bill, which would require that school buses be equipped with a “restraint system,” from consideration for the rest of the year due to lack of committee support. Photo courtesy Des Moines (Iowa) Public Schools
Rep. JoAnne Favors removed her proposed bill, which would require that school buses be equipped with a “restraint system,” from consideration for the rest of the year due to lack of committee support. Photo courtesy Des Moines (Iowa) Public Schools

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The author of a proposed bill that would require that Tennessee school buses be equipped with a “restraint system” decided last week to remove it from consideration for the rest of the year.

Rep. JoAnne Favors’ bill, HB 395, would apply to new school buses purchased on or after July 1, 2019, and as of July 1, 2023, all school buses statewide would have to be equipped with a restraint system. The bill had passed the House Education and Administration Planning Committee, the House Government Operations Committee, and the Finance Ways and Means Committee last month.

However, Favors told Chattanooga Times Free Press that she didn’t think the bill had enough support in the Finance Committee. The bill will stay in that committee until next year, when she will resume her fight for the bill, according to the newspaper.

HB 395 has been questioned due to concerns over cost and effectiveness, and the House and Senate Finance Committees will only consider it, along with other bills that were placed “behind the budget,” after the state’s annual spending plan is passed, Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.

On Thursday, suggested amendments to the bill, including one that would provide the first year of funding for it, and another that would provide money for a study on the use of bus seat belts, put it in limbo, according to the newspaper.

As previously reported, HB 395 is also opposed by some school districts, bus drivers, and lawmakers, who are concerned about the ability of young children to free themselves in the event of a crash or fire.

The bill is intended to address school bus safety in response to a school bus crash in Chattanooga in November that killed six students and injured 31 others. Johnthony Walker, the bus driver, was indicted on six counts of vehicular homicide in March and faces several other charges.

Related Topics: fatalities, school bus crash, seat belts, Tennessee

Nicole Schlosser Managing Editor
Comments ( 4 )
  • Michelle Loglisci

     | about 7 months ago

    Could someone please address the concern over increased evacuation times in the event of a bus fire if seat belts were required? Today for the second time, our department worked with our local fire department on an evacuation drill using a smoke machine to simulate the conditions. Our drill was a real eye opener for our newer drivers who weren't here for the first one. Actual fire situations are even worse, because the smoke is black and toxic! We watched a firefighter training video first - the bus was filled with this black, toxic smoke in 45 seconds from when it was first visible. It took our adult, trained bus drivers 2 full minutes to get out of the bus through the back door - a likely scenario with an engine fire. I invite legislators to view the video of our first event from 2012. Here's the link: http://www.m-pact.tv/maestrov/app/client/webSite/index.php?s=3&category=33

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