Tennessee Congressman introduces bill to require school bus seatbelts

On Wednesday, Cohen introduced what he calls the Bring Enhanced Liability in Transportation for Students (BELTS) Act to help protect children who ride on school buses. (Image: MGN)

One Tennessee Congressman has introduced a bill that would address the issue of protective gear on the nation's school buses, in the wake of the deadly school bus crash on November 21st in Chattanooga that left six children dead.

Rep. Steve Cohen (D) of Tennessee's 9th Congressional District (near Memphis) is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

On Wednesday, Cohen introduced what he calls the Bring Enhanced Liability in Transportation for Students (BELTS) Act to help protect children who ride on school buses.

Cohen says the bill would create federal grants to purchase new school buses with lap/shoulder seat belts or equip existing ones with such belts and creates federal grants to equip school buses with motion-activated detection systems.

Coehn says the bill would also direct the Secretary of Transportation to withhold 10% of a state’s apportionment of certain federal-aid highway funds if the state has not enacted a law that requires the employer to conduct background checks before hiring school bus drivers.

Finally, the bill would direct the Secretary to withhold 10% of federal highway funding if the state has not enacted and is not enforcing a law that imposes specified first offense and second offense civil or criminal penalties for motorists found guilty of illegally passing a stopped school bus.

“Last month’s horrific school bus crash that killed six children in Chattanooga, Tennessee was a wake-up call,” said Congressman Cohen in a news release.

He continued, “When it comes to protecting our school children, safety must come first. To date, only six states require seat belts on school buses. When I was in the Tennessee State Senate, I sponsored a bill to require seat belts on school buses, yet it was opposed by the industry and never received a vote in committee. On average, there are 134 school-transportation-related fatalities per year. Seat belts, background checks for drivers and other measures could help reduce future disasters. I urge my colleagues to support this common sense legislation to protect our children riding on school buses.”

David A. Duke, the CEO of Durham School Services, which employed the driver of the Woodmore Elementary school bus that crashed, Johnthony Walker, says his company plans to implement new safety measures and efficiency in handling complaints.

Depend on NewsChannel 9 to keep you posted on this bill's progress.

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