New legislation could change age requirement for bus drivers - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

New legislation could change age requirement for bus drivers

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State lawmakers have different approaches to address safety on school buses but agree change should happen during this legislative session.

Lawmakers in Nashville are proposing new bills to prevent this kind of accident like the Woodmore bus crash from happening again.

READ MORE | Woodmore bus crash

Wednesday, Representative David Hawk of Greeneville introduced a bill on behalf of Governor Bill Haslam that would change age requirements for bus drivers from 21 to 25.

The governor's approach does not include a requirement for seat belts and that's the central focus of representative favors bill she introduced Thursday morning.

She wants new school buses to have special safety belt systems. The legislation also calls for new buses purchased after July 1, 2018 to have restraint systems that are federally approved.

Buses already owned by districts, schools, or contractors will have to meet the same requirements with seat belts by July 1, 2023.

Some bus drivers like Jerry Green, are unsure if age could’ve prevented the Woodmore bus crash.

"It depends on the individual, who they are? Are the accustomed to driving a vehicle larger than a car?" Green questioned.

Those are some of the things Green wants legislature to think about. Johnthany Walker, the driver charged in the Woodmore crash, was 24 at the time of the accident and 23 when he was hired by Durham School Services.

“The more students you load on a bus, the heavier the vehicle is, and there's a lot of difference in driving a large vehicle than driving a car,” Green added.

The American Psychological Association says at 25-years-old you are still what they call an ‘emerging adult,’ It’s something many car rental businesses and insurance companies consider.

"The first piece is surely maturity; the second price is beyond the National Transportation Highway Safety Administration data we know is just experience,” Hank DeHart with StateFarm explained.

Green believes younger drivers are at risk of being distracted more now than in the past.

"Everyone is in a hurry today. Everyone drives faster than they used to, there's more traffic and you got to constantly have your attention span on driving the bus,” Green said.

Hawk's new bill calls for more training before drivers can take the wheel with students on board.

Opponents say adding seat belts could be very expensive for bus owners and operators and say there is no need for them because of the way buses are built.

Recently representative Courtney Rogers introduced a bill that would not allow anyone who has ‘committed a serious traffic violation’ from obtaining a license if that incident occurred within three years of trying to obtain a commercial license to drive a school bus.

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