School bus safety hot topic during Metro Council meeting

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Safety on school buses was under the microscope Tuesday night as Metro Council members discussed a resolution to add seatbelts to buses.

Committee members decided to differ the resolution requesting and plan to revisit the issue after the first of the year and recommend an in-depth study on the impact of seat belts on school buses.

Under the resolution, Metro Schools would phase thousands of buses over the next 17 years and replace them with buses that have seat belts.

Tuesday’s discussion comes on the heels of the devastating loss of six elementary school students who were killed last month in a Chattanooga school bus accident.

Ahead of the meeting, News 2 spoke with the education chair who said members in the community are contacting him and they are concerned for their children’s safety.

Ron Graves said he says a little prayer each day for his 8-year-old granddaughter before she boards her school bus.

He said the recent bus accident in Chattanooga continues to weigh heavy on his heart.

“We have needed seat belts on buses for a long time. We have seat belts in cars, it’s the law to wear a seat belt,” he said. “We also know that it’s going to cost a lot of money to outfit those buses, but how many kids have to die?”

In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration endorsed three-point seat belts on school buses for the first time.

“I think we need to do it as soon as possible to look at what features we can add to buses – to the whole process to insure safety of the kids,” Council member Ed Kindell said.

Graves said he feels strongly that there should be seat belts on school buses.

“We have a bus that comes here every day and picks up kids and it disturbs me when I see a car, with a bus here with the stop sign out, in such a hurry that they don’t take into consideration that someone’s child is out there,” he said.

Cost and how the district would pay for it continues to be a factor in equipping seat belts on school buses.

Opponents of installing seat belts say school buses use a system called compartmentalization to keep students safe since bus seats are spaced tightly and covered with thick foam to form a protective bubble for students.