Seat belts on school buses? The decision won't be easy - CBS46 News

Seat belts on school buses? The decision won't be easy

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Source: WGCL Source: WGCL

For months, the DeKalb County School System has been looking into what it would take to equip all of its school buses with seat belts.

“In our research, we had done the cost analysis of what it would cost to do that," said Superintendent R. Stephen Green. "It is an expensive price tag to go back and retrofit your current buses and then make sure all the new buses have the provision.”

Two deadly school bus accidents in other states in 2016 – one in Maryland and one in Tennessee -- prompted the National Transportation Safety Board to do a special investigation. In its findings, made public this week, the NTSB is recommending that states require new school buses to be equipped with lap and shoulder belts.

If it becomes a mandate, Green said his school district will certainly comply.

“There are questions that arise, though, in terms of how do you enforce it? What if a student says they don’t want to wear the seat belt?” he pondered.

And what if the bus catches fire?

“The way to evacuate the bus all of the sudden becomes a whole other variable because you’ve got to now take the time to unclip it and go out the back,” Green said.

He agrees that requiring seat belts only for new, replacement buses would help school districts financially, but he said the "phasing in" of seat belts would bring up yet another issue for states to consider.

“Then you have a disparity," he said. "You have some buses that have them and some buses that don’t.”

Right now, seat belts are just a recommendation. It will be up to state lawmakers to decide whether to make it a requirement that all new school buses have seat belts.

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