Resources Seat Belts Related Articles Not Everyone Applauds the Recent Alabama Seat Belt Proposals
Not Everyone Applauds the Recent Alabama Seat Belt Proposals PDF Print E-mail
Written by Stephane Babcock   
Sunday, 01 April 2007 00:00

What began as a reaction to the tragic pre-Thanksgiving crash that took the lives of four Huntsville students, has now come to an overt conclusion on the need and usefulness of seat belts on school buses with recommendations designed to push the issue before federal regulators.

At a press conference held two days before the declared deadline of March 2, the seven-member group offered Gov. Bob Riley a report that included two main proposals: fund a three-year pilot study that would collect information on safety restraint usage on 15 school buses, and push the National Governors Association to urge NHTSA to offer new insight in the form of definitive data on this issue.

“Alabama could be a leader in this issue,” said Mitch Edwards, director of communication for the Alabama Department of Education. “We would be able to provide data to other states.”

The recommendation calls for $750,000 in funding in the first year, which will include money for the five new buses with lap/shoulder belts, upgrading 10 more to include lap/shoulder belts, five extra drivers and monitors, and fuel and administrative costs. The three-year total will work out to approximately $1.4 million, which is a small portion of the almost $277 million annual budget for all kindergarten through 12th grade public school transportation.

“With the lawsuits piling up, I think they had to come up with that decision,” said Dr. Stephan Moran, a trauma surgeon who testified at the February hearings in Huntsville. “I was disappointed because they isolated school buses and not pupil transportation. I’m all for seat belts, but we have other issues involving students getting hit in front and at the rear of buses. This will further delay addressing these issues.”

The fact that there hadn’t been the death of a child on a bus in over 40 years compelled Moran to believe the funds could be used for the installation of more crossing arms and even the inclusion of back-up cameras, two areas of the bus where students are more likely to be injured or killed. For every one child who is killed while on a school bus, two and a half are killed getting on and off of them.

“I told the board we need to critically analyze all the student deaths and then figure out where to spend the money. When funds are limited, they need to be spent appropriately. I just feel sorry for the two and a half who were pushed aside,” added Moran.

The board members themselves said they were happy with the outcome and plan to help in any way necessary during the study and at its conclusion.

“The governor said that he felt sure he would be able to get the funding for the study,” said Dr. Ann Roy Moore, Huntsville superintendent. “We are going to send out requests for proposals (RFPs) to different colleges and universities in Alabama for research projects. Our team would probably view the proposals and endorse the best one.”

Reprinted from the April 2007 issue of School Transportation News magazine. All rights reserved.

Last Updated on Monday, 21 December 2009 17:20