FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 8, 2007
Common sense has finally prevailed, and as a result, Texas school children will soon be safer in school buses than ever before.
On Friday, June 8, the Governor signed a bill I authored along with Representative Mike Hamilton (from Mauriceville) to require all new school buses purchased after Sept. 1, 2010, to be equipped with three-point (lap and shoulder) seat belts for each passenger and bus driver.
The technology of current school buses is 30-years-old, and when compared to how cars have changed for that period, school buses aren't safe enough. Just think about how much your automobile's safety features have changed over the years. Even airplanes require passengers to buckle up during takeoffs, landings or turbulent conditions. Today's grocery carts often include baby seats or toddler straps.
While today's buses are safe, they are specifically designed for frontal impacts, and not for accidents involving side impacts or rollover collisions. With nothing restraining them in their seats, students can be thrown around the inside of a bus, collide with hard surfaces, or be ejected from the vehicle.
Though we cannot protect children from all the dangers of the world, we do have the duty to get them to and from school as safely as possible. Parents who rely on school transportation for their children want the security my bill provides. It also reassures them that discipline will improve simply because their children will be restrained properly in their seats.
This new law is also a bittersweet victory for the parents of Ashley Brown and Alicia Bonura, two Beaumont students from West Brook High School who were killed in a bus accident last year. They and the parents of other students who were involved in this crash, with some injured seriously, turned their grief into advocacy. I admire the West Brook Bus Crash Families for working so hard and campaigning so actively to pass this important legislation.
Texas will be the second state to require the newer three-point seat belts in new buses. This technology is considered the most effective means of crash protection available for bus passengers by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Additionally, charter buses, the least safe of all buses, used by a school district on or after Sept. 1, 2011, will also have to be equipped with these safety belts.
The bill also permits and encourages people to donate these three-point safety belts for individual school buses with approval by the school board. If accepted, the donor's name will be placed on a small sign on the side or back of the bus.
While we lay the foundation for safer buses, we did not lay down an unfunded mandate on our school districts. The Legislature will have to appropriate the necessary funds to ensure that school bus rides are safer.
The price of this new technology, available since 2002, though not free, is reasonable. It will cost between $7,000 and $10,000 to install these lap-shoulder restraints on a new bus. That's less than 10 percent of the total amount for a new bus, or about two to three cents per student rider per day. Compared to the staggering cost of even one accident, the expenditure is certainly justified.
Beaumont Independent School District learned from their tragedy how critical it is to equip school buses with seat belts. While this accident was indeed a tragedy, Texas has learned from Beaumont's example and passed a law making buses safer and improving discipline in them.
Harriet Beecher Stowe once said, "Common sense is the knack of seeing things as they are, and doing things as they ought to be done." Our constant message to youngsters for years has been to buckle up, yet the rules change when they climb aboard a school bus. We have confused our future drivers with a double standard. This new law will end the confusion. It makes sense!
I thank the West Brook Bus Crash Families, my colleagues in the Senate and House, especially Rep. Mike Hamilton and the many supporters who helped us enact this much needed reform. Texas children deserve no less. Ashley and Alicia deserved more.
As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact Doris Sanchez, my press secretary, 512-463-0385.