Louisiana students will remain on buses without seat belts to and from school

Bill mandating seat belts dies in legislature

A school bus sits parked. (Photo courtesy of Pexels)

Many Louisiana students will still have to go to school in buses without seat belts.

House Bill 130, which would have required new school buses to have seat belts failed to pass in the Louisiana Senate by a 7-30 vote Monday, effectively killing the legislation.

Sen. Kirk Talbot (R-River Ridge), who brought the bill to the Senate for Rep. Robby Carter (D-Amite), said Monday that figures from the National Safety Council predict that installing seat belts on school buses would reduce severe injury in bus crashes by 50 percent.

Over 75 percent of passengers in road vehicles who survived an accident in 2019 had a seat belt on, according to the National Safety Council, while around 20 percent of passengers who survived didn’t have a seat belt on.

Sen. J. Rodgers Pope (R-Denham Springs) said he was concerned seat belts could make school buses less safe for younger students. “If, God forbid, there be an accident or something, how are we going to get those kids off the bus if they’re all buckled in?” Pope said.

“I believe it’ll help kids more than it won’t, but I see what you’re saying,” Talbot said. 

Sen. Gary Smith (D-Norco) said he was concerned about “the logistics of how this is actually going to work and how it’ll affect the school day,” especially younger students who may have trouble buckling and unbuckling lap belts.

“Does this mean the school bus driver is going to have to stay stopped in the street and go back and buckle each student, or are you… going to have an additional aide on the bus who is buckling and unbuckling students?” Smith said.

In an interview with the Illuminator Tuesday, Carter said, “I put the safety of the children above the few seconds to buckle up or buckle off.”

“Children’s safety should be first (priority),” Carter said. “And we’re not looking out for children’s safety if we’re not even offering seat belts on the bus.”

Carter, a trial attorney, said his bill would also help school buses get auto insurance. “The school bus drivers say, ‘We can’t get liability insurance.’ Well, maybe it’s because your buses don’t have seat belts on it.”

Carter said he plans on reintroducing the legislation next session.