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Seat belts on school buses could be possibility if bill makes it to governor’s desk

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 8:42 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Louisiana state senators debated a bill Thursday, May 13, that would require seat belts to be installed on school buses.

This issue isn’t as cut and dry as people may think. There are studies that both sides of the argument say support their position. But Rep. Robby Carter (D-Amite), sponsor of HB 130, said this is something that should have been done a long time ago.

“If we’re going to require seat belts to be worn in every other kind of vehicle, why do we exempt the most important thing to all of us, which are our children, from having to wear these on a school bus?” asked Carter.

Talk about putting seat belts on school buses is nothing new. A similar plan was brought before the legislature back in 2004. It passed both the House and Senate and was signed by Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

“But it was subject to appropriations and for 17 years, there hasn’t been an appropriation to do that,” Carter added.

That means there was no answer on how to pay for it. So now, Carter is bringing forth another bill to try to install those seat belts. But his bill is a little different. It only requires seat belts on buses that are purchased starting Jan. 1, 2023.

“The newer buses are built with the high rise in the back and if there’s an accident or something, that seat is collapsible,” said Mark Faulk, executive director of the Superintendent’s Association.

He added the studies he’s reviewed show the newer busses have a different design than the older ones and installing seat belts on those buses wouldn’t be safe.

“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. I think safety proposal after safety proposal has shown you’re safer with seat belts on than with seat belts off,” Carter argued.

Carter also said it would only be an additional $2,000 per bus to install seat belts. But Faulk said aside from the cost and safety issues, there is also a liability issue for the driver. He stated most drivers have a hard enough time making sure the kids are seated in the first place.

“The issue, there again, is making sure the kids are buckled. What good is a seat belt if the kid isn’t buckled? But you know, the parents can put it in perspective of my child in my car under my supervision. Here you have a bus driver in charge of 60 kids,” Faulk explained.

The bill has already made it out of the House and while it was in the Senate on Thursday, it was referred to the Senate Committee on Education, where there are a few more details lawmakers may want to try and work out.

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