New Bus Seat Belt Law Takes Effect

new bus seat belt law

Ashley Brown and Alicia Bonura, two high school students in Texas, were killed in 2006 when their bus overturned. Following reports from family members and an investigation from a state trooper, it is strongly believed that their deaths could have been avoided if they were wearing seatbelts.

The resulting legislation "Ashley and Alicia's Law",signed on June 8th, 2007 by then-Governor Rick Perry, called for school buses purchased after September 1st, 2010 to include three-point seat belts.

A Funding Issue Resolved

There were two problems with Ashley and Alicia’s Law, however, that made it difficult to enact. First, the law was contingent upon lawmakers finding funds to cover for the expenses associated with the installation of the seat belts; if there was little to no funding available, school districts would not have to install new seat belts until funding was available. Second, the money that was set aside for the funding Ashley and Alicia’s Law was terribly spent. Out of $10 million that was to go to the school districts, only about $400,000 was used for the seat belt.

For this reason, Governor Abbott signed into law Senate Bill 693 on June 15, 2017. Through this law, as of September 1st, 2017, every new bus purchased must have a shoulder-to-lap seat belt at every seat. This law does not require for older buses to have the new seat belts installed, and school districts that can't afford the new seat belts  (which costs between $8,000 to $10,000 per bus) can vote to opt-out of the new requirement. This law is one of the many that legislators in Texas approved in the beginning of the year.

School Bus Accidents Can Be Dangerous

There are many reasons why school bus accidents can be dangerous. It is for this reason that the new seat belt law had bipartisan support and lawmakers on both sides of the isle wanted for the safety of children to be a top priority. Some of the ways that children can get hurt in a bus include:

  • Rollover Accidents
  • Rear-ended accident
  • Front impact accidents
  • Fire
  • Tire blowouts
  • Ice or snow on the road

For these reasons and others, bus accidents - especially those where there are not seat belts for students - can have terrible consequences. Personal injury accidents do not always because of a driver’s negligence, such as a driver who hit another driver because they were texting while driving. Sometimes the unexpected can occur, and not having a necessary level of safety can lead to unwanted results.

Using Money the Right Way

One of the biggest factors influencing the decision of the law was an analysis of how schools were using their funds, and if those funds were being directed to the areas of greatest need. One proponent of the new law takes digital scoreboards as an example. The father of one of the students that was injured in the 2006 accident argues that if a school district has the financial capacity to build new stadiums and install new scoreboards, then they should be able to afford something more valuable: the protection that children and students deserve.

However, opponents of the new law argue that the costs to install new seatbelt hardware can easily mount to tens of thousands of dollars. The district superintendent for Belton Independent School District argues that the cost of purchasing the seat belts, estimated to be $60,000 per year, is almost the same cost of purchasing a new school bus. The main concern of this superintendent and others is not so much the implementation or thought placing the new law into effect - it’s the price that matters.

Preparing Your Kids for a Safe Bus Ride

It is important to parents and adults to fully prepare their kids for a safe bus ride. This includes making them aware of emergency exits, how to properly sit on a bus, and what to do when and if an emergency strikes. Although a bus accident can be unexpected, parents can help kids prepare for the unexpected. This includes making sure that they are wearing their seatbelts at all times, they do not walk or stand when the bus is in motion, and making sure they pay full attention to the bus driver should an accident occur.

Also, making sure kids follow the directions of an emergency response team such as firefighters and paramedics can help a rescue operation become faster and more efficient. These tips can be taught in a matter of minutes. Remember, the safety of your children should be a top priority, and making sure they are fully prepared is an important way of doing this.

What to Do If Your Kids Report Unsafe Driving

While you can prepare for your kids for the unexpected, having a bad bus driver can be a dangerous thing. If your children are reporting unsafe driving from a bus driving, especially if it is not the first time that bad driving has been mentioned in regards to a bus ride to school or home, contacting the school district and/or the bus service provider is an important step to take. While parents trust bus drivers to do their job and transport their children in a safe manner, the reality is that not all bus drivers have performed at the top of their ability.

There have been reports of bus drivers that have sped past a red traffic light in order to have an on-time arrival. Also, there have been other reports where a bus driver has been texting while driving. These reports should convince parents that if their child is suggesting that their bus driver is driving in an unsafe manner, it could be true. Instead of brushing off the comment and ignoring it, parents should take action into ensuring that their children are taken care of in all stages of bus transportation. Finally, simple acts such as requiring children to send their parents a text message once they have arrived to school safely can be an easy task in ensuring their safety. It’s the little things that can have great importance, especially when it comes to safety.

Mark A. Anderson
Board Certified Personal Injury Lawyer in Fort Worth, Texas