Freshman U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., continues his fight to add seat belts to school busses as his proposal on the matter was rolled into another proposal.
Back in April 2017, Crist introduced the “Best to Use Safety (BUS) Belts Act” which would mandate that all new school busses have seat belts. Crist worked on the issue when he served in the Florida Senate in Tallahassee.
"Our responsibility to keep students safe goes beyond the classroom – we must also provide for safe transportation to and from school," Crist said back in March when the National Transportation Safety Board threw its support behind adding seat belts to school busses. "I am thankful that the National Transportation Safety Board is joining our call to require seat belts for our children on school buses. We made progress in Florida. Now we need to enhance protections nationwide."
When Crist introduced the bill last year, he noted that the Sunshine State mandates large school busses have safety belts thanks to the proposal he sponsored in the state Senate. Currently, only drivers of large school busses need safety belts under federal law.
"Families across Florida teach their children to buckle up. But for millions of kids across the country their school bus lacks this basic safety feature," Crist said when he introduced the proposal last year. "All students deserve access to a safe education – this measure simply extends that principle to children’s transportation to and from school."
"Children are provided the protection of three-point belts when they ride in a car. The same protection should be offered to them in school buses. This legislation would enable this to happen," said Deborah A.P. Hersman, the president and CEO of the National Safety Council, in support of Crist’s bill.
This week, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., brought out legislation to strengthen safety requirements on school buses, including provisions from the Best to Use Safety (BUS) Belts Act including Crist’s proposal that busses be “equipped with three-point belts and providing grants to upgrade existing buses with safety belts.”
Crist pointed to recent bus crashes across the nation as to why his bill was needed.
"The recent tragedies in Chattanooga, Baltimore, and New Jersey make clear the need to extend student safety beyond the classroom. I thank Sen. Duckworth and Rep. Cohen for their leadership on this issue, taking action in the fight to improve school bus safety," said Crist on Wednesday. "While the state of Florida has taken the lead, with this new bicameral bill, bolstered by the findings of the NTSB, we have the opportunity to strengthen protections for students across the country."
"No parent should have to worry about the safety of their children when they get on a school bus each day, but school buses often lack seat belts and basic safety equipment," Duckworth said. "I am introducing this legislation to prevent accidents, reduce the severity of accidents when they occur and implement other commonsense safety recommendations because nothing is more important than protecting our children."
"Nothing is more important than the safety of our school children. It’s common sense to have seat belts for children on school buses. We’ve seen enough deaths in school bus accidents in Tennessee and elsewhere and it’s past time we act to save young lives," said Cohen.