FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 17, 2007
AUSTIN, TX -- Today the Senate unanimously approved a bill by Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., that requires lap and shoulder seat belts in all new school buses. The bill applies to new buses purchased by a school district on or after Sept. 1, 2010, and all school chartered buses operated after Sept. 1, 2011.
"Today we purchase cars with no thought to the cost of seatbelts. Eventually that will also hold true for the purchase of school buses in this state," said Sen. Lucio. "It's time we stop giving our children mixed messages by requiring them to buckle up in a car but not in a school bus. This law is just common sense."
The legislation is partly in response to an accident occurring March 29 of last year in which a chartered bus carrying 23 soccer players from West Brook High School in Beaumont was involved in an accident en route to a playoff game. The bus overturned and two players -- Ashley Brown and Alicia Bonura -- were killed and others severely injured. Despite their grief, parents of the students actively campaigned for change. Their advocacy led to Beaumont I.S.D. becoming the first Texas school district to require all new buses to be equipped with seat belts and to passage of the legislation.
Mr. Brad Brown, Ashley's father, said, "The families of the Brown's and the Bonura's are ecstatic over the passage of House Bill 223 sponsored by Sen. Lucio. We feel this is a wonderful legacy to the memory of our two girls, and a legacy of hope and safety for all Texas school children."
"The West Brook bus crash families are thrilled and overwhelmed by the unanimous support of the Senate and their decision that this seat belt legislation is the right thing to do to protect our children in Texas," said Mr. Steve Forman, Allison Forman's father, who was critically injured in the wreck.
Under this new bill, each new bus transporting school children in the state must be equipped with three-point (lap and shoulder) seat belts for the driver and each passenger. The bill will take effect only if the Legislature appropriates the necessary funds to reimburse school districts that comply with the Act. However, individuals who want to donate the safety belts for individual buses can do so at the discretion of the school board. If approved, the board may acknowledge the donation by recognizing the donor with a small sign on the side or back of the bus.
To install lap-shoulder three-point restraint seat systems on a new bus, it costs from $7,000 to $10,000. "That's less than 10 percent of the total cost of a new bus," explained Sen. Lucio. "It's about two to three cents per student rider per day. Compare this to the staggering cost of even one accident."
Since 2002, new technology lap-shoulder belt restraint seating for school buses has been available from several manufacturers at a reasonable price. Although built safely, current technology of school buses is 30-years-old. They are designed for frontal impacts, and not for accidents involving side impact or rollover collisions. With nothing restraining students in their seats, they can be thrown around the inside of the bus, collide with hard surfaces, or ejected from the bus.
Sen. Lucio is deeply grateful to the families of the children involved in the West Brook bus accident, as well as to his co-authors, Senators John Carona, Robert Deuell, Rodney Ellis, Mario Gallegos, Eliott Shapleigh, Leticia Van de Putte, Tommy Williams and Judith Zaffirini, and the House Author, Rep. Mike Hamilton, as well as his co-authors, Representatives Allan Ritter, Charles "Doc" Anderson, Joseph "Joe" Deshotel and Donna Howard. After the House concurs with the changes, the bill will be sent to the Governor.
Note: Legislative Director Ian Randolph handles this issue for Sen. Lucio and can be reached at 512-463-0127.