PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island — New school buses in Rhode Island would have to be equipped with seat belts under a bill approved by the state Senate last week.
The legislation, S 2256, does not specify whether the restraints would have to be lap-shoulder belts or whether lap-only belts would suffice. A spokesperson at the Rhode Island General Assembly told SBF that “presumably either kind would satisfy [the bill’s] requirement.”
The legislation would not require existing school buses in the state to be retrofitted with seat belts.
Along with mandating seat belts on new school buses, the bill would require school districts to prepare a plan for implementation and use of the seat belts within one year of acquiring belt-equipped buses. That plan would have to include emergency evacuation drills.
According to a legislative council summary, the bill would require all passengers on belt-equipped school buses to buckle up. State law already requires school bus drivers to wear their seat belts.
The legislation, which is sponsored by Sen. Adam Satchell, would go into effect upon being signed into law.
“Seat belts save lives and prevent injuries,” Satchell said. “While school bus accidents are fortunately not common, a child who is wearing a seat belt during one is less likely to get hurt than a child who isn’t.”
Satchell also noted that Rhode Island law requires monitors on all buses carrying children in kindergarten through fifth grade, so monitors could help younger children with their seat belts if needed.
After the Senate’s passage, the legislation moved to the House for consideration.
Six states have passed varying types of seat belt laws for school buses. Last year, Mark Rosekind, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, began calling for seat belts on all school buses.