Seattle Post-Intelligencer/Associated Press
OLYMPIA -- Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe pointed to jerky video
footage of students tumbling around in an overturned bus as
she urged lawmakers to require seat belts in all Washington
"While school buses are safe, children flying around
in school buses are not safe," McAuliffe, D-Bothell,
told the Senate Education Committee last week.
"Our children deserve to have safe seat belts."
McAuliffe's proposal drew criticism from industry and government
officials, who said the restraints don't necessarily save
children's lives. Education officials worried that a seat-belt
mandate would put even more pressure on already stretched
Senate Bill 6590 would extend provisions of the state's 1986
car seat-belt law to school buses.
It would require all school buses purchased on or after June
30 to include lap and shoulder belts. The move would cost
most school districts about $1.50 per child per year. The
bill would also earmark $500,000 from the state Highway Safety
Fund to retrofit existing buses with belts by June 2010.
Five states currently require seat belts in school buses:
New York, New Jersey, California, Florida and Louisiana.
Washington already mandates seat belts in vehicles for special-education
"There is a question about whether or not this is even
needed," said Dan Steele, director of governmental relations
of Washington State School Directors Association. "State
dollars for education are already in short supply."
He said the proposal would mean more buses, because the youngest
children could not safely use seat belts designed for older
students and adults.
The seat belts may also reduce bus capacity, Steele said.