Bill Would Create Grants for School Bus Seat Belts

Thomas McMahon
Posted on December 8, 2016
Under a national bill introduced by a Tennessee congressman, grants would be made available to buy new school buses with three-point belts or to retrofit existing buses with them.
Under a national bill introduced by a Tennessee congressman, grants would be made available to buy new school buses with three-point belts or to retrofit existing buses with them.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new national bill from a Tennessee congressman would create federal grants to equip school buses with lap-shoulder belts, among other measures targeting pupil transportation.

Under the “Bring Enhanced Liability in Transportation for Students (BELTS) Act,” grants would be made available to buy new school buses with the three-point restraints or to retrofit existing buses with them.

The legislation, introduced by Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), comes in the wake of the Nov. 21 school bus crash in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in which six students were killed and more than 20 were injured.

In a press release, Cohen called the Chattanooga crash “a wake-up call.”

“When it comes to protecting our school children, safety must come first,” said Cohen, who is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “To date, only six states require seat belts on school buses.”

The legislator said that when he was in the Tennessee Senate, he sponsored a bill to require seat belts on school buses, “yet it was opposed by the industry and never received a vote in committee.”

In addition to offering funds for seat belts, Cohen’s new bill in Congress would create federal grants to equip school buses with motion-activated detection systems. The legislation would also direct the U.S. secretary of transportation to withhold 10% of a state’s allotment of certain federal-aid highway funds if the state has not enacted a law that requires employers to conduct background checks before hiring school bus drivers.

The bill would also impose a 10% highway funding penalty if a state has not enacted and is not enforcing a law that imposes specified first-offense and second-offense penalties for motorists found guilty of illegally passing a stopped school bus.

Cohen’s bill was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Wednesday. As of press time on Thursday, the text of the legislation was not available. The status of the bill and, presumably, more information will be posted here.

Related Topics: background checks, school bus crash, seat belts, stop-arm running/illegal passing, Tennessee

Thomas McMahon Executive Editor
Comments ( 3 )
  • Tamara

     | about 3 years ago

    As a driver back when I was in traiing I was told that if children were seated properly in the bus even without belts they are safer than in a car with seat belts on. If this is true...what would had happened in TN if they were all belted and with the bus on it s side they would have to all been cut out of their belts. (Yes, if there is wt on a belt it locks and had to be cut...we have a belt cutter velcroed withing reach in case of accident to gwt ourselves out) No biggie you say...what if it were a rural area with no help close by AND the bus were on fire?

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