Rep. Steve Cohen introduces school bus seat belt bill

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Congressman Steve Cohen introduced an act Wednesday aimed to put seat or lap belts on school buses.

Cohen, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure  Committee, said the bill would create federal grants to purchase new school buses or equip existing buses.

The legislation, titled Bring Enhanced Liability in Transportation for Students (BELTS), would also create federal grants to equip school buses with motion-activated detection systems.

The bill would also direct the Secretary of Transportation to withhold 10 percent of a state’s apportionment of certain federal-aid highway funds if the state has not enacted a law that requires the employer to conduct background checks before hiring school bus drivers.

And finally, the bill would direct the Secretary to withhold 10 percent of federal highway funding if the state has not enacted and is not enforcing a law that imposes specified first offense and second offense civil or criminal penalties for motorists found guilty of illegally passing a stopped school bus.

“Last month’s horrific school bus crash that killed six children in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was a wakeup call,” said Congressman Cohen. “When it comes to protecting our school children, safety must come first. To date, only six states require seat belts on school buses.”

He continued, “When I was in the Tennessee State Senate, I sponsored a bill to require seat belts on school buses, yet it was opposed by the industry and never received a vote in committee. On average, there are 134 school-transportation-related fatalities per year. Seat belts, background checks for drivers and other measures could help reduce future disasters. I urge my colleagues to support this common sense legislation to protect our children riding on school buses.”

The move comes after six children died in a tragic school bus crash in Chattanooga. The driver, who reportedly had past complaints against him, was arrested and charged.

The company who owned the bus and contracts out drivers has since made major changes, including installing those motion-detection cameras on all of their buses over the next two years.