Texas is going to be a safer place for school bus riding students. The Texas Legislature recently voted to ratify Bill 693, which requires all school buses in Texas to be equipped with seat belts. It will still be several years until all buses are outfitted, but the change will begin starting with this school year. According to Channel 2 in Houston, the issue came to prominence back in 2015 after a serious school bus accident.
Two students from HSID died when their bus fell off the 610. The students weren’t wearing seat belts, as is common on school buses. There are many more minor accidents regularly involving school buses, but it may only be a matter of time before another serious accident occurs. According to one parent, Jennifer Aguirre, it makes her “nervous” that her child’s bus doesn’t have seat belts.
Senate Bill 693 was written earlier this year by State Sen. Sylvia Garcia with bipartisan support. It passed easily this past summer, and it requires three-point seat belts installed in any bus purchased after September of this year. Garcia says that several parents approached her to spearhead the initiative. “…it makes so much sense that we require seat belts in cars, airplanes, even golf carts, but we don’t do that for our children, our most precious, precious, passenger,” she said. Bill 693 will officially become law on September 1.
KPRC 2 investigated how many school buses in Houston area had seat belts already. They found that it varied by district. Alief District, for example, has 96 buses with seat belts, which is 27%. Fort Bend has a similar percentage. HISD has a higher percentage, at 48%. All districts will start replacing old buses with ones equipped with seat belts as time goes on. This will involve thousands of buses, which means it will take many years before the fleets are fully replaced. “We’re hoping that everything will line up eventually and it’ll be a cost-effective measure,” said the director of transportation for Cy-Fair ISD, Bill Powell. However, he is concerned that after 15 years, when he estimates that his fleet will be fully replaced, there will be new technology that may require another change. Also, with the districts having to come up with the funds to buy the new buses, changes in service levels and routes may affect students in the coming years to save money.
School districts have been given the choice to opt out because of the costs involved, but Garcia hopes that they buy into the initiative. “I would ask school districts…to do everything they can do reshuffle their dollars and get those school buses with three-point seat belts,” she said.
For parents, the safety of their children is of paramount importance. If your child has been hurt in a bus accident, it’s important to obtain legal representation to protect their rights. A bus accident attorney can help file any applicable claims, whether it be through an insurance company or through the courts. Call one in Houston today for a consultation.