Legislation for Mandatory Seat Belts in School Buses

A bill that will require seat belts in all school buses acquired after January 1, 2014 is awaiting the Ohio House of Representatives. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Chandler, D-Kent.

Recent school bus accidents have aroused questions regarding the safety of the high backed, padded seats meant to contain children in the case of an impact. A bus surveillance camera captured footage of a recent crash in Ohio. The video is now on YouTube and depicts high school students being violently projected over the seats to the other side of the bus.

On June 2, six-year-old Kasey King of Frazeysburg, Ohio was killed in a school bus crash on the way to her elementary school. The driver and six other children were injured.

Hours after the fatal crash, the Ohio House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously approved the new bill for the Ohio House.

The bill, if passed, would require seat belts for buses purchased, leased or rented after January 1, 2014. The bill will not require older buses to be refurbished. The bill requires school districts to create policies mandating seat belt use but does not require enforcement. New York, New Jersey, Florida, California and Texas all have similar laws mandating seat belts in new buses.

In Ohio, 17,000 school buses transport 900,000 children each day. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration research shows school buses are much safer than regular passenger vehicles. School buses have a fatality rate of 0.2 per 100 million miles while other vehicles' fatality rate is 1.5.

There is no federal regulation on the use of seat belts in school buses. NHTSA research shows that, even without seat belts, children are nearly eight times safer in school buses than in cars.

Other concerns include reduced bus capacity and cost. The cost of having seat belts installed in a bus runs from $7,000 to $17,000 per bus. NHTSA research shows that seat belts could reduce bus capacity up to 17 percent, creating the need for more buses and more bus operators.

The bill is currently awaiting the Ohio House.