Local seat belt proponents hope schools act fast after NTSB’s recommendation

Local News

For the first time, the National Transportation Safety Board said schools need to purchase seat belts on all new school buses.

Tuesday’s announcement stems from the NTSB’s special investigation into two deadly school bus crashes in 2016 — One, in Baltimore City, the other, in Chattanooga.

NTSB investigators claim seat belts could’ve saved the lives of the six students who died in that bus crash in Hamilton County.

The seat belt recommendation bolsters the efforts behind a state bill to require seat belts in new school buses.

That effort failed twice, but Governor Bill Haslam has approved $3 million in seat belt grants for school districts statewide.

Debra Maggart, a lobbyist of bus seat belts, called Tuesday’s recommendation historic and said she hopes school officials in Tennessee act quickly.

“I would like to see as many school systems to apply for the grant dollars,” said Maggart. “I think it would be a great thing for our kids, and parents to know that everyday when child goes to school and comes home, that they’re safe.”

Critics argue seat belts on school buses create an unnecessary obstacle if an emergency or disaster were to strike.

At this point, it’s up to states to adopt the new requirements, which would come at a cost.

Maggart estimates on average, seat belts for a new school bus cost anywhere between $5,000 and $7,000.

NTSB investigators revealed in the case of the Chattanooga bus crash, the bus driver’s excessive speed and cell phone use caused the crash, and therefore, the Board highlighted the need for improved oversight of school bus drivers and bus design.

Link to NTSB Report: https://www.ntsb.gov/news/press-releases/Pages/NR20180522.aspx

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