Coventry lawmaker calling for seat belts on all school buses


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – New school buses should be equipped with three-point seat belts, says Coventry Rep. Robert Nardolillo, and he’s introduced a bill requiring all new buses have seat belts by 2020.

“It is a fact that seat belts save countless lives every year yet we do not require them on school buses despite evidence that shows they can prevent serious injury or even death in the event of an accident,” Nardolillo said Wednesday in a statement.

The bill would require every new school bus purchased or leased for use in Rhode Island have the three-point seat belts familiar in cars, and require school employees to be trained on their use – as well how to evacuate a bus when kids are strapped in.

Nardolillo cited recent conventional wisdom – which says, school buses already are very safe, and children are protected by high-backed, foam-covered seats (through what’s often called “compartmentalization”), and compared to thousands of deaths in cars each year, less than ten children die in school bus crashes every year in the United States.

Instead, Nardolillo argues that simulations have shown un-belted students are at a much higher risk of injury during a crash compared to those who are wearing seat belts.

“We want to be proactive, we don’t want to be reactive when it comes to safety for our children,” Narolillo said.

Nardolillo said the legislation is not only important to him as a lawmaker, but also as a father.

“I want my kids riding on a school bus with the same safety that they have in the car when I’m driving them to the bus stop,” Nardolillo said.

But not everyone agrees. Opponents of the proposed bill are concerned about the district fronting the bill, and that the seat belts would delay an evacuation in the event of an emergency.

Nardolillo said the bill also proposes requiring school employees to be trained for emergency situations.

In December 2016, a NHTSA presentation noted its own chief administrator, Mark Rosekind, had one year prior called for three-point seat belts for every child. But the agency also noted that seat belts would reduce capacity in seats, and fewer buses would carry more children. 

So far, California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York and Texas currently have laws requiring seat belts on school buses.

Nardolillo said the last time he introduced the bill, it was held for further study by the House.

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