Duckworth pushing for law to require seat belts in new school buses

  • Elgin Area School District U-46 bus driver Erna Cerasa walks around her bus to make sure all the lights are working during a safety check in Elgin. Only smaller buses are required to have seat belts in Illinois.

    Elgin Area School District U-46 bus driver Erna Cerasa walks around her bus to make sure all the lights are working during a safety check in Elgin. Only smaller buses are required to have seat belts in Illinois. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Tammy Duckworth

    Tammy Duckworth

 
 
Updated 12/12/2016 2:56 PM

Illinois' soon-to-be senator is putting her political weight behind a proposed law requiring that new school buses be equipped with safety belts.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a Hoffman Estates Democrat, co-sponsored the legislation with Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen, which comes in the wake of a fatal crash Nov. 21 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where six children died when the driver sped into a tree. Cohen called the Seat Belts Save Lives Act of 2016 a "wake-up call."

 

"Our country shouldn't still be sending children to school in new buses that don't have this lifesaving equipment," Duckworth said in a statement Monday.

"While school buses already represent the safest mode of school transportation, recent fatal accidents are a tragic reminder that we must do more to ensure all children buckle up when traveling, whether in a passenger car or a large school bus."

Although the law sounds like common sense, only six states requires restraints on school buses, mainly because of pushback from the student transportation industry. Opponents argue buses are already the most secure form of transport for kids while belts are costly and could impede evacuation in an emergency.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Transportation Safety Board, National Safety Council and American Academy of Pediatrics support putting seat belts in buses.

Proponents explain that seat belts restrain passengers in a side-impact collision or if the bus flips over. For example, no one died and serious injuries were reduced because of seat belts after a 2014 school bus wreck in. Anaheim, California, where the driver lost consciousness and careened down an embankment, the NTSB reports.

Duckworth will be sworn in as senator in January.

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