|Connecticut Governor Pushes Ahead with Attempt to Require Seat Belts on School Buses|
|Written by Ryan Gray|
|Monday, 01 March 2010 07:56|
As a bill moves through the state legislature on three-point lap/shoulder belts for school buses, Gov. M. Jodi Rell said she will place $2 million on the state's next Bond Commission Agenda to purchase 40 new school buses equipped with the passenger restraint systems for the state's vocational technical school system.
“With this updated fleet, we have a tremendous opportunity to, perhaps save a life and prevent another family from suffering the devastating loss of a loved one,” Gov. Rell said in a statement. “We need to do the right thing for our children. When the state orders new buses, they must come equipped with seat belts.”
The next Bond Commission meets on March 26.
Meanwhile, the legislature is debating a bill that would require seat belts on all school buses by next January after the death of 16-year-old Vikas Parikh, who died on Jan. 9 when the school bus in which he was riding tumbled down a 20-foot embankment on Interstate 84. His family was among those who testified in support of legislation requiring seat belts.
“This young man’s family strongly believes he would be with them today had he been wearing a seat belt, and I cannot disagree,” added Gov. Rell. “That tragedy resonated with parents across Connecticut.”
The seat belt proposal before the Legislature’s Transportation Committee would require seat belts be installed on all schools buses by January 2011. If passed into law, Connecticut would become the seventh state to require seat belts on buses, but only the third to require the three-point belts. California is the only state enforcing its three-point law, implemented in 2004, while Texas has yet to find the funding upon which its law relies. Florida, Louisiana, New York and New Jersey have laws requiring two-point lap belts.
A survey in late January conducted by Quinnipiac University found that three-quarters of Connecticut voters favored a bill requiring three-point seat belts on school buses. The Connecticut School Transportation Association opposes HB 5033, stating that the bill, as drafted, would put more children at risk. The organization representing private companies that operate school bus contracts pointed out that Parikh's death, while tragic, was only the first student fatality on board a school bus since the state began recording such statistics in 1972.
William Moore, COSTA's executive director, said the reason school buses are so safe is due to the 16 specific federal motor vehicle safety standards written by NHTSA for school buses, including FMVSS 222 that creates compartmentalization of students between cushioned, high-back seats during some crashes. However, Moore added that any law passed should ensure that three-point seat belt be used.
NHTSA updated FMVSS 222 last year to include mandatory requirements for three-point seat belts in small Type A school buses and regulations to follow when voluntarily equipping lap-shoulder restrains on larger school buses, like the one in which Parikh was riding.
Also being debated is the additional cost of the seat belts, which could be as high as $20,000 per bus.
|Last Updated on Monday, 01 March 2010 09:02|