Texas School Bus Seat Belt Law Now In EffectWill this new law keep Texas children safer?
Effective this month, a new school bus seat belt law aims to keep Texas children a little safer on their way to class.
This new law requires all new school buses to have shoulder-to-lap seat belts for all riders. It replaces a 2007 law that offered monetary compensation to districts that installed seat belts in their school buses. Very few districts opted in under this program, and most buses still don’t have any seat belts.
Both the new school bus seat belt law and its 2007 predecessor came about as a result of tragic accidents. In 2015, a Houston school bus fell from an overpass, killing students Mariya Johnson and Janecia Chatman. Neither students were wearing shoulder-to-lap seat belts. Not surprisingly, this accident occurred in the state Senate district of the author of the new law, Senator Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston.
The 2007 measure was called “Ashley and Alicia’s Law.” It was named after the two Beaumont high school students killed when the bus they were riding overturned in 2006.
“[This] common-sense safety legislation acts on what Texans already know to be true: that seat belts save lives.”Tori Sommerman
“If you can afford to build new stadiums, if you can afford digital scoreboards, then you can afford the protection that our children deserve.”Steve Forman
What to Expect from the New School Bus Seat Belt Law
The school districts in Beaumont and Houston, where the aforementioned accidents occurred, had already begun requiring three-point seat belts after their respective incidents; however, there was no state requirement until this year.
The school bus seat belt law in Texas requires that three-point seat belts be present in buses that are model year 2018 or later. This includes buses chartered by school districts and used for events or other functions. The law does not require older buses to be retrofitted with the shoulder-to-lap seat belts. Districts that cannot afford seat belts can opt out of the requirement if they hold a public meeting with a vote.
All of this does come at a cost. Seat belts can add anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000 per bus. That’s a near-prohibitive cost for some districts, particularly as the state’s transportation funding formula hasn’t been updated for decades.
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Seat belts save lives. The life of a child is the most important thing in the world to their parents – so why have school districts been so slow to offer this most basic of protections? This new school bus seat belt law is a huge step forward in the safety of our children, but it will probably meet with some resistance from schools, due to budgetary restrictions.
If you or someone you love have been injured or killed in a school bus accident, call an experienced attorney to thoroughly investigate your case and get you the justice you deserve. Contact us today at 214-389-7333 to schedule a consultation.