Should School Buses in NJ Have Shoulder Belts Too? [AUDIO]
Citing recent school bus accidents in Old Bridge, including one in which several students were injured, State Senator Sam Thompson is introducing legislation which would require all new school buses in New Jersey to include three-point lap and shoulder seat belts.
"To provide adequate safety for our children when they're being transported, we really need the shoulder as well as lap seat belts to protect them," said Thompson. "The lap belts are good, but they do not prevent a child's body from bending over and hitting their head on the the seat in front of them."
"The shoulder restraint would keep the upper body from moving forward in the event of a crash or something of that nature."
In January, a commuter bus collided with a school bus on Route 9 in Old Bridge, flipping the school bus onto it side. Luckily, no children were on the school bus at the time. But, just last week, a school bus carrying elementary school students was involved in an accident on Route 516 in Old Bridge, resulting in several injuries.
"Parents put their children in infant seats and booster seats to make sure they're protected in their own cars, but when they send a child onto a school bus, all the child has is a lap belt to keep them safe from harm" said Thompson. "Parents shouldn't have to give up the expectation of safety when their children board a bus for a daily ride to school."
Thompson's legislation is modeled on initiatives in California and Texas that require all new school buses to include three-point restraints on all seats.
"For a long time, many parents didn't think about school bus safety because they never imagined that much harm could come in a short neighborhood ride to school," said Thompson.
"However, an increasing number of New Jersey roads have extremely heavy traffic and can be dangerous for all vehicles, including school buses. A parent wouldn't drive down Route 9 without their child strapped in tightly in the back seat, and they shouldn't expect their son or daughter to be any less protected in the school bus driving down the highway next to them."
Currently, New Jersey law requires all new school buses to include lap belts, but there is no requirement that three-point belts be installed.