CINCINNATI — Is it time for seat belts in school buses?
There’s no law in Ohio requiring them, and Indiana and Kentucky only require them in certain cases.
But the question is sure to draw more attention after a crash with a Rumpke truck hurt at least 19 students in Dearborn County, Indiana, and also sent two adults to the hospital Wednesday morning.
Kadence Taylor needed six stitches.
"I flew all the way across to the other side of the bus," he said. Taylor said his cousin was hurt, too: "He was pinned between two seats … I tried getting him out of there."
Inspection records show no major issues with the bus, a 2002 Thomas Built, going back to 2013.
"We're very fortunate with the severity of this accident that we didn't sustain any life-threatening injuries or any injuries that appear to be more severe than they could've been," said Eric Lows, superintendent of South Dearborn Community Schools.
According to Indiana's Department of Education, 21 out of its 300 districts independently require restraints - both lap and shoulder belts - on most buses. Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation in Columbus, Indiana - about an hour from Indianapolis, is one of those districts.
The School Transportation Association of Indiana wishes more districts would follow suit, its president, Tim Fosbrink, told WCPO.
"Compartmentalization has worked for years. It has been proven that in rollover accidents and some side impacts, that's not enough and seat belts would help in those situations," Fosbrink said.
Nationwide, just eight states require seat belts on school buses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. They are:
- New Jersey
- New York
What about the Tri-State?
Last year, a proposed law in Ohio died in a House committee.
Kentucky requires seat belts for 16- to 22-passenger buses fitted for average-size 6-year-olds.
Indiana requires buses transporting pre-school students to have seat belts. And a new bill on the table would require seat belts in all (new) large buses.
There are concerns with seat belts, too, said Adam Baker of the Indiana Department of Education
“Say a fire happened, or even an accident like today where you have to make sure you have efficient procedures for getting children off the bus ...
“You deal with a bus full of kindergarteners and now you have 60 kids who don’t just have to hop off the bus safely — you have to make sure they get help taking their seat belt off.”
The cost of seat belts is another concern. Baker said it could cost upward of $15,000 dollars to retrofit a bus with seat belts.
“A lot of times you’ll find districts will set that money to the side and as they replace buses they ensure the new ones have seat belts,” he said.
“Obviously we don’t want to talk about what’s cost effective versus a child’s life. That’s not the discussion at all.But when you talk about districts strapped in funds — and trying to figure out how to support all of the actions within a district — $15,000 per bus can really add up.”
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