Seat belts soon to be more common on Texas school buses

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DENISON, Tex. ― One of the students injured in Wednesday’s school bus crash in Anna talked to KXII-TV. He says if that school bus had seat belts, injuries could have been avoided. Rashi Vats spoke with administrators at one local school district that has seat belts on their buses.

The Denison Independent School District is ahead of the curve when it comes to school buses. Most of their buses already have seat belts. While it is a costly expense, Denison ISD officials say their students' safety is worth it.

After Wednesday’s bus crash in Anna, many parents are wondering how safe school buses really are.

"School buses are still the safest form of transportation," says Les Harding, transportation manager at the Denison ISD Service Center.

Those buses will soon become even safer once a new state law goes into effect in Texas in just over a year. In 2010, Texas Law will require school buses that are purchased by schools to have seat belts. Denison ISD already has 80% of their school buses equipped with them.

Harding says it costs about $600 per seat to install seat belts on school buses already in use. With roughly 28 seats per bus, it would cost about $16,500 to upgrade each bus in the fleet. Add that to the initial cost of the bus, and you are looking at about $107,000 apiece.

Whereas buying a new bus complete with seat belts could cost around $100,000, Denison has already bought 29 of those new buses and upgraded two old buses.

"For the older students, I think it's vital that they wear seat belts on school buses,” Harding says.

One guardian whose two children were involved in Wednesday’s crash in Anna says that the seat belts would have helped.

"I believe seat belts would have made less injuries because it was said that one of the little girls in the bus was flipped over two seats," guardian Fredrico Wells said.

In September 2011, Texas Law will require all charter buses carrying children to have seat belts as well, so kids can buckle up for a safer ride.

These new laws taking place in the next couple of years are not retroactive. Seat belts will only be mandatory for school buses purchased after 2010. The source of funding for the law has not yet been determined.

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