Local schools face tough decision about seat belts

The school bus is the safest way to get to school. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration thinks it can be safer with seat belts.

The NHTSA says seat belts could save two of the four lives lost on a bus each year. It’s only recommending seat belts, not forcing districts to install them. The cost for the addition per bus is estimated between $7,000 and $10,000.

Terra Marroquin says she’s concerned to put her fourth-grader, Kailey, on the bus to school each morning. She believes seat belts would likely help, but understands there are two sides to the argument.

Murray Independent Schools superintendent Bob Rogers says safety is No. 1 to him. He’s not convinced that seat belts are the best idea. After 50 years in education, he says he’s heard the debate many times.

Until he sees more research, he’ll continue to believe his fleet is as safe as it gets. And changes to current buses are not a possibility. “Right now they’re certified school buses the way they’re built. And you don’t go in there adding things,” Rogers added.

Rogers says he considers both sides of the argument. “If you have an accident where you need to evacuate the bus quickly, will this prohibit them from doing that?” he asked.

Marroquin says she knows it’s a tough decision for the school board. “It’s like a catch 22," she said. "You know if can help but can also harm.”

Rogers says only 59 percent of the district’s transportation is paid by the state. 

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