Thursday, February 12, 2009

Senate Says "Yes" To Bill Requiring New School Buses to Have Seat Belts

Students on the state's school buses may soon have to buckle their seat belts.

A bill passed by a Senate committee today mandates that new additions to Colorado's fleet of school buses would have to be equipped with seat belts.

SB 29, sponsored by Senate majority leader Brandon Shaffer of Longmont, cleared the Senate Transportation Committee with two GOP members joining the Democrats in support.

Shaffer secured committee approval of his bill after easing a provision that would have required buses purchased within the last five years to be retro-fitted with seat belts.

As amended, the bill applies to all buses purchased after June 30, 2010. On June 30, 2014 a requirement that all buses purchased after June 30, 2004 have seat belts installed in them would take effect.

The committee action came despite opposition to the bill from the Colorado Association of Secondary Schools and the Colorado Association of Elementary School Principals.

Kevin Schott, the principal of Basalt High School, told the committee that the bill would raise school district expenses and that the results could be a reduction in the number of available school bus routes and the capacity of each bus.

The committee also heard testimony from the mother of the last child to die in a school bus accident in Colorado.

Rose Swemby said that her son, Kevin, would likely have survived a 1989 crash in which several dozen other students were injured if the school bus in which he had been riding had been equipped with seat belts.

The measure would require school bus drivers to attend training in the use of safety belts and to instruct students riding on buses how to use the seat belts.

The GOP's Nancy Spence, a veteran Centennial legislator who is often a leading Republican voice on education issues, voted "no" on the bill.

SB 29 now heads to the Senate floor.

Kevin Swemby was 11 years old when he died in that accident.