Lawmakers in Louisiana are considering a bill that would require seat belts on all new school buses in the state.
Rep. Robert Carter introduced HB130 earlier this year in hopes of phasing in seat belts on all new school buses purchased in the state, beginning Jan. 1, 2023.
The bill comes more than a decade after Carter unveiled a similar plan in 2004 to install seat belts on all of the state’s school buses, including retrofitting those that were already in service, according to LSU Manship News Service. The original bill, however, did not receive the necessary funding to move forward, which Carter told the news source, was about $34 million based on a legislative note on the bill.
Under HB130, Carter added that the bill’s new requirements would not cost school districts any money to retrofit their current school buses, and that the bill would not affect any buses that have been placed under contract to be delivered.
As for the cost to install seat belts, Carter told WAFB, that it would be an additional $2,000 per bus.
Mark Faulk, executive director of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, told WAFB that since the state’s new buses have a different design than the older ones, based on studies he’s reviewed, installing seat belts on those buses would not be safe. He also noted a liability issue for school bus drivers who may experience challenges in getting students to wear the safety belts.
“We’ve been hearing those same arguments for the last 30 years on why we shouldn’t have seat belts in cars and in trucks,” Carter explained to WAFB. “I think safety proposal after safety proposal has shown you’re safer with seat belts on than with seat belts off.”
On Tuesday, the House passed HB130 with a vote of 55 to 44, according to the Louisiana State Legislature's website. On Wednesday, the bill was received and read by the Senate, who later referred the bill to the Senate Committee on Education.
As School Bus Fleet previously reported, in March, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a report, “Education on Proper Use of Seat Belts on School Buses,” to show that the most crucial factors for effective seat belt use are training, education, and enforcement.
Based on self-reported findings from school bus drivers and transportation directors and anecdotal data from school districts in 12 states, the report examines the ways states and school districts can maximize the benefits of the decision to implement seat belts on large buses. The report also looks at differences between policies and how they impact proper seat belt usage.