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Washington, other states eye school bus seat belts

In this Nov. 2, 2011, file photo, school buses pick up students at Jason Lee Middle School in Tacoma, Wash. A bill that would require school buses to have seat belts is being considered by lawmakers in Washington. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)
In this Nov. 2, 2011, file photo, school buses pick up students at Jason Lee Middle School in Tacoma, Wash. A bill that would require school buses to have seat belts is being considered by lawmakers in Washington. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)
By Alexis Myers Associated Press

OLYMPIA – A bill that would require school buses to have seat belts is being considered by lawmakers in Washington, one of more than a dozen states where school seat belt measures is on the legislative agenda this year.

The Senate Transportation Committee is scheduled to hear Senate Bill 5054 on Tuesday afternoon. It would mandate that all public and private school buses purchased after the bill takes effect have a safety belt for each rider.

California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York and Texas have existing variations of a seat belt law for school buses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. At least 17 states, including Washington, have introduced legislation regarding seat belts on school buses in the 2017 sessions.

Jane Terry of the National Safety Council said the organization supports the push for school bus safety restraints, citing a bus crash in Chattanooga, Tennessee, last year that killed six children.

“It’s really the safest way for occupants to ride and it comes down to the bottom line of seat belts save lives and we’ve known this for years,” Terry said in an interview. “There’s no reason, especially when people are looking at purchasing new buses, why they shouldn’t try to get ones with this type of common sense safety equipment on board.”

Terry said from the time a child is born they are placed in a car seat and are taught to buckle up in a car, but for some reason a school bus is treated differently.

“A school bus should not be a time where you say ‘it’s OK you don’t need to buckle up this time,’ ” she said.

Washington’s measure is sponsored by Republican Sen. Brian Dansel and Democratic Sens. Jeannie Darneille and Christine Rolfes. Similar legislation has also been proposed in the House.

The other states considering school seat belt legislation include: Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia and Utah.

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