State Law requiring seat belts on school buses discussed at GISD Public Meeting
By Alexandra Cannon, Staff Writer
Groesbeck ISD School Board held a public hearing February 22 to discuss the pros and cons of buses with three-point seatbelts with the community. The passing of Senate Bill 693 into law September 1, 2017 now requires Texas school districts to purchase buses equipped with three-point seatbelts unless the board determines the district’s budget doesn’t permit and votes against seat belts in a public meeting. The meeting at Enge-Washington was dual-purpose, allowing community members to express concerns and ask questions, and also meeting requirements for the board to opt out of buying buses with three-point seatbelts as outlined in the law.
Liz Carter, GISD Head of Transportation, presented relevant information to those in attendance about the law, insurance coverage, and changes that would be made should the district choose to buy buses with three-point seat belts. A policy would have to be created to ensure use of the seat belts on buses. The district would need to seek community and stakeholder support; create policy, procedure, and consequences; train on technology; and consider convertible seating. Carter thoroughly explained the versatility of the three-point seatbelts and included a portion of the position statement by The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).
“School bus transportation is one of the safest forms of transportation in the United States. We require all new school buses to meet safety requirements over and above those applying to all other passenger vehicles. These include requirements for improved emergency exits, roof structure, seating and fuel systems, and bus body joint integrity. These requirements help ensure that school buses are extremely safe.”
Carter also addressed concerns by bus drivers, showing pictures of current students on buses in close quarters without seatbelts. With the varying ages and sizes of students, confining each student to the same amount of space in order to wear a seat belt may require routes to change so all students fit in the alloted seat belted-space. Many of GISD bus drivers were present at the meeting to provide additional information about current seating and their opinions on the difficulty versus safety aspects of the belts.
Besides concerns about longer load and unload times, meaning buses will sit on a street with traffic longer, potentially creating more time for accidents on the road, Carter spoke on the time it would take drivers to help students evacuate the bus in a timely manner should an emergency arise.
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