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House passes bill requiring school buses entering service to have seat belts

school bus
Posted at 8:22 PM, May 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-11 21:22:07-04

BATON ROUGE--The House passed a bill 55-44 Tuesday to require any school bus entering the school system in 2023 or after to have seat belts for passengers.

Rep. Robby Carter, D-Amite, said he brought the bill because he knows that the state will not be able to appropriate the funds to require seat belts for passengers in all school buses retroactively.

Carter brought a successful bill in 2004 to require seat belts in school buses, but he did not find a way to fund that bill. Now, 17 years later, he hopes to pass legislation that will actually make the change he meant to make earlier in his career.

The original bill would have required that every school bus already in the school system in 2004 have seat belts installed and that every school bus added to the system have seatbelts prior to entering. A legislative note on the 2004 bill estimated the cost at about $34 million, according to Carter.

“I’m a realist,” Carter said, noting that he knew it was hardly feasible to put that much money toward school bus seat belts.

The current bill is a compromise by which no buses must be retroactively fitted for seat belts, and seat belts will be phased in as new buses enter the school system beginning January 1, 2023.

“We’re not costing the school boards any money to take care of their old buses,” Carter said.

Carter made the year 2023 to ensure that the bill truly is not retroactive and does not affect any school buses that have already been placed under contract to be delivered. This gives the school systems about a year and a half to fall in line with this potential new requirement.

The bill contains no language about who is responsible for making sure that children wear the seat belts. It does not indicate liability for anyone in the case that children fail to wear the seatbelt.

“It’s for the safety of the children,” said Carter.

“If you’ve got 34 kids on a bus, and 33 of them are buckled in, and you have a wreck, I would rather one be flying around inside the bus than 34 of them ping-ponging around inside,” he said.

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