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Duckworth bill would help put seat belts on every U.S. school bus

‘No parent should worry that their child could be injured on a school bus,’ the senator said at a Friday afternoon press conference.

U.S. Sen Tammy Duckworth discusses school bus safety legislation.
U.S. Sen Tammy Duckworth (at lectern) discusses bus safety legislation that she and a representative from Tennessee have reintroduced in Congress.
Nader Issa/Sun-Times

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., reintroduced legislation Friday that she says would make it safer for students to ride school buses.

At a Friday afternoon news conference outside Little Village Academy, Duckworth urged Congress to take up the “School Bus Safety Act.”

“It worries me that not all school buses have seat belts,” said Duckworth, a member of the Senate Transportation & Safety subcommittee. “No parent should worry that their child could be injured on a school bus when there are proven technologies available today that could prevent such a tragedy.”

Duckworth and U.S. Rep Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., are co-sponsoring the bill. It would implement recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board. Three-point safety belts would be required on every school bus seat; new buses would have to include stability control and automatic braking systems. The bill also would create a grant program to help school districts pay for the improvements.

“While school bus crashes may be infrequent, when they do happen, they can be catastrophic,” said Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “Unfortunately, as the school year gets underway, many buses lack basic safety protections.”

More than 1,200 people died in school transportation crashes between 2008 and 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“Our children deserve a safe ride in every single vehicle,” said Maureen Vogel of the National Safety Council. “It is a complete miss that we buckle them securely in their seats in our vehicles but then we put them on buses where they’re not protected.”