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La. lawmakers will start debating on making seat belts mandatory on school buses

Updated: Jun. 1, 2021 at 7:49 PM CDT
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - Senate Lawmakers will start debating a bill requiring seat belts on all school buses. The bill passed the House last month without objection despite concerns about costs. The bill will require all buses operating after January 1, 2023, to have seat belts.

Ouachita Parish Public School Director of Transportation Skeeter Boyd says if seat belts become mandatory, it would be a bus driver’s worst nightmare.

“Right now, it’s the safest vehicle on the road,” he said.

Safety is the number one priority when it comes to children riding the bus. The school bus seat belt bill is no stranger in the legislature. Boyd says lawmakers have introduced similar bills time after time in the past 15 years. He says they all failed due to safety concerns. Boyd says if a bus was in an accident, the driver would not be able to save all the children.

“We couldn’t evacuate 66 kids if the bus catches on fire. We do have a law for three-year-olds, four-year-olds, and five-year-olds. They have to be in a seatbelt in their seat. We have what we call integrated seat belts that cover them and protect them from going forward,” he said.

State Representative for District 16 Frederick Jones supports seat belts. He is a co-author of the bill.

“I believe there does have to be some kind of training to be put in place. I believe that maybe they may be used on school-aged kids who know how to take off their seatbelt. I believe that is an extreme circumstance or an example. We know that every day they have crashes,” he said.

Jones says having seat belts during an accident could save lives. Boyd says if the bill is passed, an emergency button should be implemented. He says it could help release children from the seat belt in case of an accident.

“Well, everybody wants children to be as safe as possible. So I think that it’s safer as it stands right now. It helps to get the children to a safe area off the bus and bus drivers are trained by law to help get them evacuated in case of a fire,” he said.

Lawmakers say changing the bill to make it apply only to school buses that go into operation nearly two years from now, drastically trims the costs.

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