Management

Texas Passes Another School Bus Seat Belt Bill

Thomas McMahon
Posted on June 20, 2017
The governor of Texas approved a measure that requires lap-shoulder belts on new school buses, but districts can opt out due to financial constraints. File photo from Spring ISD
The governor of Texas approved a measure that requires lap-shoulder belts on new school buses, but districts can opt out due to financial constraints. File photo from Spring ISD

AUSTIN, Texas — A new bill signed into law last week requires lap-shoulder belts on new school buses in Texas, but school districts can opt out due to financial constraints.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott approved the legislation, SB 693, on Thursday. The law goes into effect Sept. 1, with the three-point belt measure applying to new buses that transport students, beginning with model year 2018. In addition to school buses and school activity buses operated by districts and contractors, the measure covers multifunction school activity buses and school-chartered buses.

Ten years ago, Texas passed legislation that required three-point belts on school buses starting in 2010, but only if the state Legislature appropriated money to reimburse school districts for the cost of the restraint systems, which is typically around $7,000 to $10,000 for a full-size school bus. Since state funding is not being provided, school districts don’t have to comply. A few Texas districts, including Houston Independent School District (ISD) and Austin ISD, have begun voluntarily equipping their new buses with three-point belts.

The newly passed bill, authored by Texas Sen. Sylvia Garcia, is not contingent on funding from the Legislature. However, it allows school boards to vote to opt out if they determine “that the district's budget does not permit the district to purchase a bus that is equipped with the [three-point] seat belts required by this subsection.” That vote would have to be carried out in a public meeting.

On the seat belt subject, the Texas Association for Pupil Transportation (TAPT) published a position paper in September 2015 in which the group advocated for leaving lap-shoulder belt decisions up to local school districts.

Jim Abney, outgoing TAPT president and executive director of student safety and transportation for Alvin ISD, told SBF that the newly passed legislation addresses the local decision issue by including the opt-out provision.

“Our stance is still [that] it should be a district option,” Abney said, adding that TAPT supports the budgetary discretion that the measure provides for school boards.

Abney said that he expects a number of Texas districts to opt out of the seat belt requirement. Also, he noted that some districts will order their next round of new buses without belts before the law goes into effect in September.

“Then after Sept. 1, it will be a [school] board decision,” Abney said.

A press release from Garcia’s office described the opt-out provision as a way to ensure that the seat belt initiative is not an unfunded mandate. The senator also said that the bill was a response to school bus crashes in Texas that have caused fatalities and injuries.

“Safety experts, EMS professionals, and common sense tell us that children need to be buckled up. We've put this off for too long on our school buses,” Garcia said in the press release. “We need every Texas child to be safe on the way to and from school. This bill will make a big impact for child safety.”

Related Topics: seat belts, Texas

Thomas McMahon Executive Editor
Comments ( 2 )
  • Don Strimpel

     | about 9 months ago

    I am also a School Bus Driver and would like to know if this new law has been judicated anywhere. This is an unenforceable law without cameras and ride along monitors. Schools have not presented any enforcement plans that would guarantee Drivers are not committing a felony if they drive and a student is not buckling up and staying buckled. Insurance companies have not looked at the risks of none enforcement and the payouts if a student is injured with none compliance. Drivers are now risking jail time and felonies unless all riders adhere to this new law.

  • See all comments
More Stories
NAPT Conference and Trade Show scholarship deadlines are almost here. Shown here is Michael Martin, NAPT's executive director, speaking at the 2018 conference in Kansas City, Mo.
News

NAPT Scholarship Deadlines Approaching

The National Association for Pupil Transportation Conference and Trade Show deadline for two related scholarships is Sept. 18. The Sol Englander Innovation in School Transportation Safety Scholarship deadline is Oct. 11.

Isabel Lane of Wisconsin held the hand of a frightened student on his first day of school. A photo of the gesture taken by his mother is widely shared on social media. Photo courtesy Amy Johnson
News

Bus Driver Comforts Student on First Day of School

Isabel Lane of Wisconsin reaches her hand out to a frightened student on his first day of school after he boards the bus. A photo of the gesture taken by his mother is widely shared on social media.

Francine Furby, the director of transportation for Fairfax County Public Schools, says that the district’s discipline-tracking system “fosters a partnership with the schools and strengthens their support of our drivers.” Photo courtesy Fairfax County Public Schools
Article

Virginia District Bolsters Driver Support for Success

Fairfax County Public Schools backs its 1,325 drivers with a discipline-tracking system for better follow-up and puts driver supervisors on the road to assist as needed. Additionally, fleet upkeep is boosted with county-employed technicians.

Glenda Daughtry, who recently retired, had worked as a bus driver and teacher’s aide for Sampson County Schools in Clinton, N.C. Many districts in the state require certain staff members to obtain their CDL and drive buses when needed. Photo courtesy Vicki Westbrook
Article

Helping School Bus Drivers Turn Downtime Into Uptime

Texas and North Carolina transportation departments fill the gap in drivers’ schedules with work opportunities beyond more routes, such as administrative, cleaning, and technical tasks, and tap other staff to ease driver shortage. Meanwhile, an Illinois contractor offers space for socializing and relaxation.

Zum has expanded its children’s ridesharing service to eight cities. Photo courtesy Zum
News

Zum Expands Ride Service to 8 Cities

In addition to Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, the children’s ridesharing company will now provide transportation to schools in Sacramento, Calif.; San Diego; Miami; Phoenix; Dallas; Chicago; Seattle; and Washington, D.C.

Be the First to Know

Get the latest news and most popular articles from SBF delivered straight to your inbox. Stay on top of the school bus industry and don't miss a thing!