The School Bus Safety Act, which is being introduced in the House by Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., would also require additional safety measures like stability control and automatic braking systems for school buses.
The bill would create a grant program to help school districts modify existing buses to make them safer, according to a statement from Duckworth’s office.
Cohen introduced a similar bill in the House in late 2016, following a school bus crash in Chattanooga, Tenn., that killed six children. The new bill is more comprehensive, said Cohen spokesman Bartholomew Sullivan.
“I don’t know of any parent really comfortable putting their kids on a school bus without seat belts,” said Duckworth, who spoke to the Tribune after touring Metra’s car and locomotive repair facility on 47th Street on Tuesday. “You wouldn’t do that in your own car.”
Duckworth noted that there have been “significant” school bus crashes, and that many new bus manufacturers are already putting in seat belts.
“It’s the same thing we went through with cars,” Duckworth said. She said the installation of three-point seat belts in cars was slow to get started, but has since become standard. “I’m just trying to make sure this becomes industry standard for all school buses.”
The proposed legislation would implement safety recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board. The act would order the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue rules requiring all school buses to include a three-point safety belt, which includes a seat belt across the lap as well as a shoulder harness.
Cohen said in a joint statement with Duckworth that the legislation would help often financially strapped school districts modify their school bus fleets “in a timely manner.” A timeline for when the bill would require modifications to buses and details on the grant program were not immediately available.
From 2007 to 2016, 1,282 people died in school transportation-related crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, cited in the Duckworth and Cohen statement. Of that figure, 118 of the deaths were of those aboard school buses. The death toll includes both the Tennessee crash and a Baltimore crash, which also killed six people.
There has been a long-running debate over whether school buses need seat belts. The argument against seat belts is that large buses are, by design, safer than passenger cars because they are heavier and have strong, closely spaced seats that offer a form of crash protection. Duckworth said this is “not a good argument.”
High-profile crashes have increased the discussion about whether students could be helped by seat belts. Smaller school buses, which are closer in size and weight to passenger vehicles, already are required to have lap-shoulder belts under federal safety standards, according to The New York Times.
A representative from the National School Transportation Association, which represents school bus manufacturers and vendors, said in a statement on its website that school buses are the safest vehicles on the road for transporting children. The association said it is studying the NTSB recommendations.
00-Pol RT,14-Roads,09-ILSN,19-Legal,XHLSN 3,26-Delivered
Feeds,News,Region: Chicago,City: Chicago,Opinion
via Home – Chicago Tribune https://ift.tt/1LjWzdx
September 12, 2018 at 12:09PM