Cullen pushes for seat belts on school buses

Posted: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 --- 5:50pm

Hop on a Wisconsin school bus and more often than not you won't find seat belts, but Wisconsin Senator Tim Cullen hopes to change that.

Under current federal law, only smaller school buses that weigh less than five tons have to have seat belts. Standard-size school buses weigh more than five tons.

"I find it outrageous that this is the law” Cullen tells NBC 15.

Cullen is proposing a bill that would require newly-made school buses to be equipped with seat belts and requires everyone riding the bus to wear them. Current school buses wouldn't to be outfitted with seat belts.

The average school bus costs about $100,000. Adding seat belts would cost $8,000-$10,000 more.

But, not everyone is on board with the bill.

"The added benefit of seat belts is limited” says Steve Rammer, Transportation Services Manager for the Middleton-Cross Plains School District. He says school bus seat belts are only useful in a handful of situations. "...primarily those from the side and those involving larger vehicles” says Rammer.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, fewer than 10 percent of bus riders are injured in a crash. And the bus driver is the one most often injured. That's the case a lot of time, but not all the time.

Back in August, five students were hurt while riding a school bus in Rocton, Illinois. The bus collided with a car, sending five students to the hospital. Prior to that, back in May in Indiana, around 50 people, mostly kids, were hurt in a crash involving four school buses.

Cullen is now looking for legislators to co-sponsor the bill. The deadline for co-sponsorship is Wednesday, September 11.

For school districts worried about the cost of equipping new school buses with seat belts, they can apply for reimbursement up to 50 percent of the cost of the seat belts.

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