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Tennessee Legislator Pushes for School Bus Seatbelts

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Tennessee State Rep. JoAnne Favors is using a bill that was written in 2015 in response to a fatal Knoxville, Tennessee school bus crash as the starting point to address safety concerns regarding lack of seatbelts in Hamilton County TN school buses.

The bus crash in Knoxville in November 2016 killed six students, and like most school buses, the children were not strapped into their seats.

bus accident

A November 2016 Knoxville TX school bus crash killed 6 children.

 

Favors stated last week that she has been working with several state legislators about requiring safety belts in all school buses in Tennessee. She noted that she does not want this to turn into a legislative fight, and that it is in the interest of all children in the state.

Another legislator, Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, noted that there have been many critics of seat belt requirements in the past – the National Transportation Safety Board is on record as not in favor –  no longer have viable arguments.

He added that the NTSB has recently stated that it does think having safety belts on school buses is a good idea, although there always is a concern on what the effort will cost each school district.

Deadly Bus Crash Killed 6 Kids

The terrible Knoxville bus crash involved a 24 year old bus driver who is facing six charges of vehicular homicide, reckless driving and reckless endangerment in relation to the fatal crash that killed six and injured dozens of other young children.

The NTSB is still investigating that bus crash, and it is not clear if seat belts would have saved lives in that case; the bus slammed into a tree at high speed and was halfway wrapped around it. In such high speed crashes, seatbelts may not have helped.

According to a fiscal analysis on the proposed safety belt bill for Tennessee, requiring buses bought after July 1, 2016 to have safety belts that are approved by the NTSB would cost the state $5 million per year.

Our View

According to the NHTSA, school buses are some of the safest vehicles on the road. But still, six school children die in bus crashes each year.  If it is economically viable for the state of Tennessee to put safety belts in school buses, we think that it is worth exploring. Anything that can prevent needless deaths of children should be examined carefully.

The Knoxville, Tennessee bus crash was especially tragic because all of the evidence points to it being preventable. The bus driver had a previous record of driving dangerously, and yet, the school district still kept him on duty. When a school district employee acts in a negligent manner leading to the deaths of others, a wrongful death lawsuit is strongly warranted, which can result in a large settlement, such as this truck crash settlement for $2.4 million in Virginia. 

1 Comment

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  1. John Hollister says:
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    “Another legislator, Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, noted that there have been many critics of seat belt requirements in the past – the National Transportation Safety Board is on record as not in favor – no longer have viable arguments.” Of course that is incorrect and just like the laws passed after the Knoxville crash these new proposed seatbelt laws are a knee-jerk reaction that fails to address several issues.

    I am a school bus driver and like a lot of other drivers are against these proposed laws for reasons I have outlined in a letter to be sent to the legislatures by the end of next week. If you are interested, please send my your email address and I will copy you too.

    By the way, I was adamantly opposed to HB1484 and SB1596 that subsequently went on to pass but did absolutely NOTHING to save lives. I wrote several letters showing how these bills as written are not about saving lives except on the surface but all about meting out punishment AFTER the fact.