Illinois, Utah, and Washington are among states considering legislation that would require school buses to be equipped with seat belts.
In Illinois, Sen. Ira Silverstein is sponsoring SB75, which, as of July 1, 2017, would require all new school buses to have seat belts for each passenger.
SB75 would also require that the state board of education put rules in place to ensure that school districts require all passengers aboard the buses wear seat belts, but school bus drivers would not be liable for the failure of passengers to wear the belts.
Meanwhile, Utah Rep. Craig Hall has sponsored HB132, which would require any new school buses purchased after June 30, 2017, to be equipped with lap-shoulder seat belts. As with SB75 in Illinois, school bus drivers as well as other school district employees would not be liable for injury that resulted from “a passenger’s use, nonuse, or misuse” of a seat belt. Unlike the Illinois bill, HB132 would not require ensuring use of the belts.
The Utah bill passed through the House Transportation Committee and is headed toward the full House of Representatives, according to Deseret News.
However, some committee members raised concerns about what they called an unfunded mandate. One representative said he would like for school districts to be able to apply for state funding for seat belts, Deseret News reports. Hall said that a resolution from Rep. Steve Handy that requests use of $20 million of the state’s share from the legal settlement with Volkswagen could help with seat belt costs, according to the newspaper.
Additionally, Washington state’s Senate Transportation Committee held a public hearing last week on Senate Bill 5054, which would also require that school buses purchased after the bill goes into effect be equipped with seat belts for all passengers, The Associated Press reports. However, Brian Lang, a former school bus driver, opposed the bill at the hearing, saying that the responsibility to make sure all the passengers use the belts is on the driver, according to the news source. Sen. Michael Baumgartner said that the responsibility should be removed from the drivers.
More than a dozen other states are considering similar measures, according to The Associated Press.
The legislative proposals follow the school bus crash in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in November in which six students were killed.
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