SALT LAKE CITY, Utah and DULUTH, Minn. — Lawmakers in Utah and Minnesota are seeking to pass legislation that would require seat belts on all new school buses purchased after a certain date.
In Utah, House Bill 168, sponsored by Rep. Craig Hall, would require all school buses purchased after June 30, 2020, to be equipped with seat belts. The House Transportation Committee approved the bill’s passage in a 7-4 vote on Friday, according to the state’s legislature website.
As SBF previously reported, Hall introduced a similar bill in 2017 that required seat belts on all new school buses. However, the bill was defeated in the House by a 30-40 vote due to cost concerns and calls for more data to prove the advantages of seat belts on school buses, The Deseret News reports.
Hall told the newspaper that now there is more national data indicating the safety of seat belts, specifically pointing to the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendation to mandate lap-shoulder seat belts for all new school buses. He added that it costs about twice as much to retrofit a school bus to install seat belts than it does to purchase a new bus. Because of that, the bill only requires school districts to phase in seat belts over time.
A fiscal note on the bill estimates that, while it would likely not impact state expenses, the bill would require school districts to spend an additional $12,000 per new bus purchased with seat belts, for an estimated yearly cost of about $2 million for an average of 180 buses replaced annually. House Bill 168 has currently been assigned to the full House, according to the state’s legislative website.
Meanwhile, a lawmaker in Minnesota recently introduced legislation that would require all new school buses to have seat belts.
Senate File 429, introduced by Sen. Erik Simonson on Jan. 24, would require all school buses purchased after December 31, 2019, to be equipped with approved lap-shoulder belts.
Simonson told The West Central Tribune that there are “relatively few injuries/deaths attributed to school bus accidents,” but that shouldn’t be a reason for the state not to require seat belts on school buses. Simonson added that the cost to install the seat belts is “worth it,” and noted other concerns about installing the seat belts similar to those made “when belts became mandatory in passenger cars.”
Senate File 429 has been referred to the Senate Transportation Finance and Policy Subcommittee, and its companion bill, House File 196, which was introduced to the House on Jan. 17, has been referred to the House Education Policy Committee.
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