City lawmakers here have approved legislation in support of a pilot program to install lap-shoulder belts on school buses.
The Avon Lake City Council, at its meeting on Monday, unanimously agreed to support the program for Avon Lake City Schools. The program includes the purchase of two 72-passenger replacement school buses with lap-shoulder seat belts, which was passed by the district’s board of education on Feb. 12.
Councilman David Kos said at the meeting, according to a video posted on the city of Avon Lake's Facebook page, that he is pleased to follow in the footsteps of Avon City Lake Schools board of education in approving the legislation, and that the program wouldn’t have been made possible without the efforts of Rudy Breglia, a citizen advocate with the School Bus Safety Alliance.
Breglia, who was honored at the beginning of the meeting with a certificate from Mayor Greg Zilka, told SBF that he has been advocating for lap-shoulder belts since November 2016, when he first learned of the fatal school bus crash in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that killed six students and left more than 20 others injured.
Now that the council has shown its support for the Avon Lake City Schools seat belt pilot program, Breglia said “the feeling is terrific and a relief,” and that the city is “providing a model that will encourage other districts and cities to step up and enhance their children’s safety by starting a lap-shoulder belt installation program.” He also said that Ohio is at a turning point in terms of school bus safety, noting the recent efforts of Beachwood City Council in approving lap-shoulder belts in school buses.
As SBF previously reported, Beachwood City Council passed legislation in December to require lap-shoulder belts on all new school buses by providing up to $250,000 in funding to pay for the equipment.
The legislation, which was initially prompted by classroom discussions among city council members and third grade students, marked the city as the first in the state to implement such efforts. The buses, which are expected to be ordered this spring, would be used as "highway travel buses" for field trips and events, Breglia told SBF.
Additionally, in May 2018, Ohio state representative John Barnes introduced a bill that would require lap-shoulder belts on all school buses that are either purchased, owned, leased, or rented as well as new replacement and existing school buses. HB680 is currently in the House Education and Career Readiness Committee, according to the state legislature's website. If the bill becomes law, Ohio would be joining other states, including California, New Jersey, and Nevada that require lap-shoulder belts.