US Sen. Sherrod Brown seeks to mandate seat belts on school buses | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

WASHINGTON — Less than three weeks after a deadly school bus crash near Dayton, Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown has introduced legislation that would mandate the addition of seat belts on all such vehicles.

According to Brown’s office, the School Bus Safety Act would follow National Transportation Safety Board recommendations by not only mandating the safety straps, but also requiring buses be equipped with measures like stability control and automatic breaking. The bill is being co-sponsored by fellow Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth, of Illinois.

“Parents shouldn’t have to worry about their child’s safety on a school bus, whether they’re traveling to school or a field trip or an away game,” Brown said in a statement. “That means passing additional school bus safety measures into law, starting with our legislation to equip buses with seat belts and other safety measures. These are commonsense, long overdue steps to protect kids and make buses safer.”

Brown cited statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showing 1,110 people died across 998 school transportation crashes nationwide between 2012 and 2021. The conversation around bus safety became even more localized on Aug. 20, when an 11-year-old elementary school student died and 23 others were injured when their bus collided with a Honda Odyssey that went left of center in Clark County. Thirty-five-year-old Hermanio Joseph, the driver of the Honda, has been charged in the case.

Following the incident, Gov. Mike DeWine launched his Ohio School Bus Safety Working Group, which will examine not only crashes but also the ongoing driver shortage in the state. Seat belts have been singled out as a particular topic of discussion, and while some districts like Beachwood have already implemented their own programs, a statewide mandate has thus far failed to pass the General Assembly.

Brown’s proposed national guidelines would require the traditional three-point safety belts, i.e. a strap across the lap along with a shoulder harness. The bill would also direct buses to install:

  • Automatic emergency braking systems that can detect objects or vehicles ahead.
  • Event data recorders (EDRs) that can record pre and post-crash data, driver inputs, and restraint usage when a collision does occur.
  • Electronic stability control (ESC) systems that will use automatic computer-controlled braking of individual wheels to assist the driver remain in control of the vehicle.
  • Fire suppression systems for engines.
  • Firewalls prohibiting dangerous amounts of gas or flames to pass from the engine to the passenger cab.

This is not the first time Brown has proposed bus safety legislation following a fatal wreck in Ohio, and in 2012 Congress approved his Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act as part of its two-year highway authorization bill. The bipartisan measure required tour buses to have seat belts and strengthened roofs and safety glass and came after four members of the Bluffton University baseball team died in a 2007 crash.

Per Brown, the new School Bus Safety Act has the support of the National Safety Council, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Center for Auto Safety, and National Sheriffs’ Association. Records show the bill has yet to be assigned to any legislative committee.


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