Md. senator pushing for mandatory seat belts on school buses

Wednesday marked five weeks until a new Maryland legislative session gets underway. State senator Jim Brochin, representing the 42nd district, has started drafting up a big push directly aimed at public school transportation.

Senator Brochin will be introducing a bill that would mandate seat belts on all school buses in the state.

“To be honest, there have not been horrific accidents yet in Maryland but I don’t think this is something where you wait for it to happen and say…oh boy, if we would have done this…we would have saved 4 or 5 kids’ lives.” he explains.

According to Senator Brochin, Maryland should not take chances on what could happen.

The latest numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) find there were 327 school children who died in “school-transportation crashes” between the years 2004 and 2013.  54 of them were reportedly passengers of school transportation vehicles.

The measure would come with a cost.

Desmond Hughes, Director of Transportation Services for Wicomico County Public Schools, estimates this would cost about 8,500 dollars per school bus in Wicomico County which is one of his concerns.

He says currently, only 18 of the 122 buses are owned and operated by the county while the rest are by various contractors.

“We’re currently finding that contractors are not wanting to purchase new school buses because of the already high costs of a school bus and certainly adding this cost on top of the base price of a school bus, we could very well deter new people into the business as well as existing contractors for staying in the business.” Explains Hughes.

47 ABC presented these concerns to Senator Brochin on Wednesday.

He explains if passed, the legislation would be phased in over the span of about five years. He says will give local school boards and contractors a chance to work the new costs into their budgets from a combination of state and local funding.

“There are ways to do this…intelligent, smart, creative ways to do this where I think we can minimize cost and I’ll look at that at the legislation” Says Senator Brochin.

According to reports, there are currently six states that have a similar seat-belt mandate for school buses: California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, and Texas.

47 ABC has reached out to the Maryland Department of Education for their position on this proposed bill. As of Wednesday evening, there has been no official comment.

For a copy of the full report from NHTSA, visit: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/812170.pdf?

Categories: Education, Local News, Maryland