Ohio lawmaker wants seat belts in all school buses by 2019


There is growing interest among other states in requiring seat belts on school buses.

In 2017, at least 29 states introduced bills to address the issue. Ohio is joining the ranks.

On Tuesday State Representative John Barnes (D-Cleveland), introduced House Bill 680 that would require all passenger seats on school buses to be equipped with "occupant restraining devices" beginning on July 1, 2019.

"We have a responsibility that the vehicle that they are traveling in that they have every proper safety apparatus that is known to the industry that will ensure their safety," says Representative Barnes.

In 2015, the National Transportation Safety Administration recommended that all buses be equipped with seat belts, but districts were not required to make the change.

Safety experts have long maintained that school buses, by design, are safe without seatbelts. It's been debated that school buses are heavy and distribute the impact of a crash differently than any other vehicle and that the interior of the school buses is cushioned and designed to keep kids in.

Many also have said they worry that if school buses have seat belts, children could be trapped inside in the event there was a crash.

Dublin City Schools says it's been looking into the issue and says it found that to retrofit one bus with seatbelts could cost between $7,000 and $10,000.

Representative Barnes says if Ohio passed a school bus seat belt law it would require school buses to make it standard equipment.

10TV contacted one of the nation's largest school bus manufacturers, Bluebird Corporation, It says: "Blue Bird offers a solution for new buses called Blue Bird NextGen Seats, which easily converts a bus from one seat type to another by simply removing and reinstalling four bolts. It's available in multiple seat configurations - lap-belt ready, three-point seat belt, child restraint, and three-point child restraint."

In May of this year, A federal transportation panel is recommended to states that all new large school buses be equipped with seatbelts. But the recommendation is not binding and states have the power not to comply.