Connecticut School Buses May See Seatbelt Mandate

Lawmakers are mulling requiring all new school buses purchased in Connecticut to be equipped with three point seat belts starting in five years.

The legislation comes as the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended the restraints as an increased safety measure for students.

"It all comes down to the safety of our children and I think if we can enable that cost in there, especially, if we put it down the road for four or five years from now, I think it’s feasible" said Rep. Tony Guerrera, (D - Rocky Hill), who chairs the legislature's Transportation Committee.

Guerrera says making the requirement go into effect in 2021 would allow school boards around Connecticut years to budget and plan adequately for the transition.

School buses cost around $90,000 each, and the installation of three point seatbelts on each seat could cost as much as $10,000 extra.

Leslie Sheldon with the Connecticut School Transportation Association says she's not sure how cities and towns would feel about the extra costs.

"Our state’s in bad shape so I don’t know if it’s good enough time or not but you know in 2021, we certainly have advanced notice of what needs to be done.”

Sheldon says it's clear national public policy is progressing toward all buses having seatbelts and Connecticut is likely to join that trend.

"That’s just the way the world is going but I want to remind everybody that the school bus is safe right now. It’s built with compartmentalization in the seats. The school bus is a safe vehicle for your child to be in.”

The biggest concern for Sheldon is protecting individual drivers from liability in the event something happens to a child not wearing a seat belt on the bus.

"They already have their responsibility of driving the bus, their backs are to the kids, the seats are higher now. They can’t see if they have belts on. It can’t be up to the bus driver. Maybe they’ll have monitors on the buses.”

Rep. Guerrera says for the sake of children's safety, the seat belt measure is a no brainer.

“When a parent puts their child on a bus, they want their child to come home in a safe manner and that’s what we’re talking about here. And it may cost a little bit of money but you can’t put a price on that. No price can ever be put on somebody’s life.”

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