In response to a fatal school bus crash in New Jersey in May and to federal recommendations based on other deadly school bus crashes, some states are considering adding or enhancing laws regarding seat belts on school buses.
Lawmakers in Ohio and Washington state are introducing legislation that would require school buses to be equipped with three-point lap-shoulder seat belts. In New York and New Jersey, upgrades from lap-only to lap-shoulder belt requirements have been proposed.
In Ohio, state Rep. John Barnes introduced a bill in May that would require all school bus seats to be equipped with lap-shoulder belts beginning on July 1, 2019. H.B. No. 680 also designates the third week of October as "Safe School Week."
Meanwhile, Washington state Rep. Gina Mosbrucker (formerly Gina McCabe) is reintroducing a bill that would mandate seat belts on all new school buses, K5 News reports. (She has introduced legislation twice before.) HB 1246 would require that all school buses manufactured after Sept. 1, 2018, be equipped with a “shoulder harness-type safety belt assembly for each passenger position.” The bill would also require these buses to be equipped with cameras to record illegal passing incidents, and it would establish provisions for use of the revenues from enforcement to fund seat belts as well as a school bus replacement incentive program.
According to K5 News, Mosbrucker thinks that the recent fatal crash between a New Jersey school bus and dump truck and the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB’s) recommendation that every state pass laws to require lap-shoulder belts on school buses would help her legislation pass this time around.
Turning to New York, Sen. David Carlucci’s proposed legislation would require school buses purchased by districts after July 1, 2019, to have lap-shoulder belts instead of lap-only seat belts. The legislation calls for older buses to be retrofitted with the belts beginning April 1, 2019, and would require students to wear them at all times, according to Lohud.com.
Referring to the NTSB’s recommendations for improvements in school bus driver oversight and calls on states to mandate lap-shoulder belts based on its investigations into the 2016 Chattanooga and Baltimore crashes, Carlucci said that the NTSB “is telling us seat belts save lives and lessen injuries. New York needs to take this guidance seriously, and lawmakers must make this legislation a top priority,” Lohud.com reports.
In New Jersey, a similar bill, which would require all school buses to be equipped with lap-shoulder belts, an upgrade from the current law requiring only lap belts on all school buses, passed the state Assembly on Saturday and the Senate on Monday. If signed into law, A4110 and companion bill S233 would take effect immediately and would apply to school buses manufactured on or after the 180th day after the legislation was enacted.
Additionally in New Jersey, as SBF previously reported, the Paramus Public Schools’ Board of Education recently voted to add three-point belts to an order of four buses it plans to purchase, and plans to gather estimates to retrofit its existing bus fleet with lap-shoulder belts.
Recent recommendations from the NTSB have also spurred members of Congress to introduce a bipartisan bill that would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to initiate a new federal rulemaking on school bus seat belts.