Bill would require seat belts for students on Ohio school buses

Cleveland Plain Dealer

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio school buses would have to be outfitted with safety belts under legislation introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives.

House Bill 578 would require all school buses bought, leased, or rented after January 1, 2016 be equipped with lap and shoulder safety belts for all passengers. The bill also would require school districts to adopt a disciplinary policy governing the failure of a student to wear a seat belt on a bus.

“School buses are a safe form of transportation for our students, but if we have the opportunity to make them even safer and prevent even one injury or death—we should,” said one of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Tom Letson, a Warren Democrat.

Similar legislation was introduced by Democrats in 2010 when the party controlled the House but never made it to a full vote of the chamber. The bill, which lacks Republican co-sponsors, likely faces more challenges this time around with the House and Senate in GOP hands.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said seat belts would not do much to increase safety on school buses, which are already safer than other passenger vehicles due to their weight and seat structure. Seat belts are required in smaller buses because they more closely resemble passenger cars and trucks.

A 1987 study from the National Transportation Safety Board determined seat belts would not have prevented most of the serious injuries and fatalities from occurring in school bus crashes. But the board's analysis of two 2012 school bus crashes concluded that safety belts can benefit passengers who wear them correctly.

Federal regulators announced last year they would require safety belts on motorcoaches. The rule was the result of legislation co-sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown after a bus carrying Bluffton University baseball players crashed and killed seven passengers.

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