New Texas school buses could be required to have seat belts

AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) — Texas legislators approved $10 million in 2009 for the installation of seat belts in school buses but little progress has been made in the nearly eight years since. Legislators now will be deciding whether or not to make the seat belts a requirement for every new bus purchased in the state.

The previous legislation required buses to be retrofitted with three-point seat belts, a move that raised the eyebrows of school districts already trying to deal with budget concerns. Since the seat belts were never deemed mandatory and there was no direct state funding provided for then, few schools acted.

The only direct funding for school bus seat belts came in 2011, when the Texas Education Agency offered about $415,000. The rest of the allotted funds were returned to state coffers or used elsewhere in an agency budget tightened by other public education cuts.

Senate Bill 693, filed by Senator Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, proposes that every new bus purchased in Texas already have the seat belts. Her reasoning behind it, plainly, seat belts have been proven to keep kids safe.

Garcia believes not having seat belts on buses sends the wrong message to students. “We try to emphasize always wear your seat belt but then on your way to school and we are unteaching them and telling them oh no you don’t have to worry that doesn’t make sense, it’s mixed signals,” she said.

Families still recovering from 2006’s deadly bus crash in Beaumont have been helping with the current legislation – hoping it works this time around and that funding will be available.

The original legislation also required school district to report bus injuries to the state, but our investigative team found that was not always happening – even here in Central Texas.

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