KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Tuesday’s deadly school bus crash has led many parents and community members on social media to ask questions about whether school buses should be equipped with seat belts.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told WATE 6 On Your Side school buses are the safest way for children to get to school, saying it’s safer than walking, riding a bike or riding in a family car.
The NHTSA said school buses provide “crash protection by cushioning and containing the passengers within their seating positions. “
“The way the seats are set up where they’re padded and tall, they kind of create a little padded capsule that the kids are in,” State Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) said.
Dunn sits on the House Standing Transportation Committee and said the issue of seat belts on school buses has been brought up to the committee in the past but he said expert testimony from transportation officials led the General Assembly to decide seat belts aren’t the best option for school buses.
“The experts tell us it’s probably best not to go with the seat belts because in the case say a bus caught on fire, it may trap some of the kids in there,” Dunn said.
The NHTSA said its analysis found that a federal mandate requiring seat belts would increase the cost to buy and operate the buses which would reduce the availability of school buses for students.
State Sen. Becky Duncan Massey is on the Senate Transportation Committee and said the tragic crash will likely lead lawmakers to take another look at state law.
“Any time you have a major incident and tragedy like this it does increase the conversation and would be worthy of a re-look by the legislature,” Massey said.
“I’m sure something like this will make us look at it again and we’re more than willing to listen to the experts and see if there is something we can do to improve the safety of our children,” Dunn said.