TN legislator to propose seat belts in school buses - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

TN legislator to propose seat belts in school buses

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Two Knox County school buses were involved in a fatal crash in early Dec. 2014. WBIR photo Two Knox County school buses were involved in a fatal crash in early Dec. 2014. WBIR photo
KNOXVILLE, TN (WBIR) -

One Knoxville legislator is working on a bill that would require seat belts in Tennessee school buses.

The proposal comes in the wake of the fatal crash between two Knox County school buses in December. The accident killed two elementary school students and a teacher's aide.

Rep. Joe Armstrong (D-Knoxville) said Thursday that many of his constituents have told him they want to see seat belts in school buses.

"We don't know whether it would've saved the lives of the children and the teacher's aide that was involved in the wreck but, certainly, in case we want to prepare that this tragedy doesn't happen again, said Rep. Armstrong. "And if seat belts could have saved one life, that's one child that would've gone home after school."

Armstrong said he is still drafting the bill, but did offer a little insight, saying the bill would likely not only require lap belts in school buses, but it would also require more frequent checks of school bus drivers' qualifications.

However, he said his proposal would likely not require all school buses to be retro-fitted with seat belts, just that new buses would come equipped with them.

Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) said he thinks the state's money could be better spent elsewhere, especially when he has seen similar bills surface in past sessions.

"I served on the Transportation Committee before when [a similar bill] came up," Dunn told WBIR in a phone interview Thursday evening, "and the testimony that came up lead us to believe that this might not be the best use of the limited funds that we have."

Armstrong said a funding method would have to be identified.

Dunn also recalled testimony that indicated seat belts on school buses could actually be harmful in cases where a bus overturns or catches fire.

School transportation-related crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is HERE.

Beth Harwell (R-Nashville), Tennessee's Speaker of the House, introduced similar legislation in 2007 which failed to pass. But having the speaker on his side of the issue, Armstrong said he is hopeful will help get the bill passed this session.

Read more at WBIR's website.

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