BEACHWOOD, Ohio — City lawmakers recently passed legislation that will require seat belts on all new school buses here, providing up to $250,000 in funding to pay for the equipment.
Beachwood City Council, in cooperation with the Beachwood Board of Education and Mayor Martin S. Horwitz's office, approved Ordinance No. 2018-195 at a city council meeting on Dec. 17.
Rudy Breglia, a citizen advocate with the School Bus Safety Alliance, attended the meeting and told School Bus Fleet that the ordinance, which requires lap-shoulder belts to be installed on all new Beachwood City Schools buses, marks the city as the first in the state to implement such legislation.
Vicki Challenger, a third grade teacher for Hilltop Elementary School, said that the ordinance was initially prompted by classroom discussions among city council members and third grade students during a civics lesson.
“In each of my six classes, the idea to implement [seat belts] came up numerous times,” Challenger, who teaches about 90 third grade students a day, said. “Some of the students kept saying, ‘If we have to wear seat belts in a car, why not wear them on a bus?’”
The idea particularly struck a chord with Beachwood City Council vice president James Pasch, who broke his neck and back in a school bus rollover accident while in high school, according to a news release from the council.
Pasch, along with other city council members, were impressed with the students’ recommendation, and had invited them to attend their city council meeting in December, Challenger said.
Approximately 50 people, including students and their families, attended the meeting as well as the ice cream social held after the event to celebrate the passage of the legislation, Challenger noted.
“It was huge turning point for safety, given the tragedies that have happened in the past year,” Challenger added. “I’m just so proud because this is not an experience I could have taught to the students — to actually see how local law works.”
Breglia added that the legislation is a significant step toward improving school bus safety in Ohio.
“Having seat belts installed in school buses is a big step, and student safety should really be a priority for us,” Breglia said. “In Ohio, only school bus drivers have been required to wear seat belts since 1986.”
Breglia also noted the state's current pending school bus safety initiatives, which include a final vote by the Avon Lake Board of Education to conduct a seat belt installation trial for one to three new buses purchased with lap-shoulder belts. The buses, which the board of education plans to order in spring 2019, would be used as “highway travel buses” for field trips and sporting events, Breglia added.
In May, 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. If HB680 becomes law, Ohio would be joining other states, including California, New Jersey, and Nevada that require lap-shoulder belts.