Indiana lawmaker pushes for seat belts on school buses

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One Indiana lawmaker plans to buckle down to get our children to buckle up. It's not a new debate, but it's getting renewed attention.

Seat belts are not currently required in school buses in the state of Indiana. Rep. John Bartlett (D-Indianapolis) wants to change that, so he is introducing a bill to require seat belts in all school buses.

"If you go get in your car to drive and you don't have a seat belt on in your automobile, it is against the law. And you send your six-year-old child or grandchild to school and they do not have that option on a school bus and we think in the great state of Indiana it is time we did that," he said.

Lap belts are required in New York, New Jersey and Florida. California requires lap-shoulder belts.

Last October, a school bus hydroplaned and crashed in Clinton County.

"The driver said 'Hold on'," said a student on the bus. "She yelled, 'Hold on' and we thought, 'What is she talking about?' It started rolling and flipping and everyone was falling."

All of the injuries in that crash were minor. But in March 2012, a bus from Lighthouse Charter slammed into a bridge abutment in Indianapolis. The driver of the bus was killed, along with a five-year-old passenger. The mother of the young victim is campaigning for a nationwide law to require seat belts on school buses.

"I think it's a great idea, because so many of the children, when they get on the school bus, want to hop around from seat to seat and the bus driver cannot control everybody, so I think it would be a great idea," said Shawn Smith, a grandmother from Indianapolis.

There are companies that specialize in equipping school buses with seat belts. They also have the data and the video to show why they may be needed, but in this day and age that is not the only consideration.

According to IMMI, a local engineering company that specializes in seat belts for school buses, it would cost $7,000-$9,000 to put lap-shoulder belts in one bus. The Indiana Department of Education said the cost could reach $15,000 per bus depending on the school district and some districts say they wouldn't be able to pay for it.

There is another question. Would the students actually use the seat belts?

"I think it would be better, because sometimes we go over speed bumps and people bounce out of their seats, so it would be better if we had seat belts," said Angel Wells, a high school sophomore.

There are approximately 13,000 school buses that take children to and from school every weekday in Indiana. Only 3,330 of them are equipped with seat belts.