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Senator Duckworth co-sponsors School Bus Safety Act

September 18, 2019

Improved seat belts, fire suppression, and automatic braking are among the steps featured in a federal plan to increase school bus safety.

“Nothing is more important than protecting our children,” said U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois.

Under the proposed School Bus Safety Act, the U.S. Department of Transportation would require upgrades to all school buses.

The act was proposed by Duckworth and U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, Democrat from Tennessee. The proposal currently is in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, according to

How many children are killed in school bus accidents every year?

Between 2008-2017, the number of people killed in school-transportation-related crashes was 1,241, an average of 124 a year, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) said. Of those fatalities, 264, or 21 percent, were children 18 and younger.

Children, drivers and other occupants of school transportation vehicles accounted for 10 percent of the fatalities. Pedestrians, bicyclists and others who were not on the school buses accounted for 20 percent of the fatalities.

Roughly 70 percent of those who died in these school transportation crashes were riding in the other vehicles. School transportation vehicles were defined as a school bus or a vehicle functioning as one.

According to the NHTSA, from 2008-2017, 97 school-age pedestrians died in school-transportation-related crashes. From 2008-2017, three drivers and four passengers died in school buses that were providing transportation for non-school activities, such as for churches or civic organizations.

Proposed legislation may be the answer

The proposed School Bus Safety Act would establish grants to help school districts install safety modifications. According to Advocates For Highway & Auto Safety, which consists of consumer, medical, public health, safety, and insurance groups, the proposed School Bus Safety Act would require:

  • Safety belts that have lap and shoulder straps
  • A suppression system that targets engine fires
  • A firewall to block hazardous quantities of gases or flames from passing to the passenger area from the engine compartment
  • An automatic braking system to help prevent crashes by detecting objects or vehicles ahead of the bus
  • An event data recorder that can record information in the seconds before, during and after a crash about driver decisions and use of restraints on the bus
  • An electronic stability control system, which uses automatic, computer-controlled braking of individual wheels to help the driver maintain control of the bus

Installation of most of the features would be required not later than one year after the act is established.

What else does the School Bus Safety Act do?

The School Bus Safety Act would also amend federal regulations regarding training. It would require at least 30 hours of behind-the-wheel instruction for drivers of school buses on public roads and with a trained instructor who has a commercial driver’s license with a school bus endorsement.

The safety features would be required in school buses made in the U.S. or imported into the country under the School Bus Safety Act.

No later than two years after the School Bus Safety Act is established, federal officials must undertake a study of the benefits of buses equipped with a motion-activated detection system. This system is capable of detecting pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users located near the exterior of the school bus and alerting the bus driver.

Contact Coplan & Crane in Illinois today for help with any issues related to school bus safety and for help with bus, car and truck crashes.