From today’s Chattanooga Times Free Pres, 6 students in ICU after school bus driver charged in crash that killed Woodmore Elementary students,
Five students are confirmed dead in the Woodmore Elementary School bus crash and six remain in critical condition this morning.
Three of the students killed were in fourth grade, one was in first grade and another in kindergarten, according to Hamilton County Schools Interim Superintendent Kirk Kelly.
Descriptions from the crash scene appear to confirm that the death and injury toll would have been significantly reduced if children were wearing seat belts. However, in Tennessee only school buses transporting special education students are required to have seats belts.
By comparison, school buses in California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey and New York must be equipped with seat belts and Texas requires that all school buses purchased after 2010 must be fitted with seat belts.
As Tennessee newspapers are now reporting, State Representative Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville, “led an unsuccessful effort to require seat belts on Tennessee school buses last year after two students and a teacher’s aide died in a bus crash in Knoxville. Many lawmakers opposed the proposal, saying it was too expensive.”
But seat belts work…
According to a 2010 study conducted by the University of Alabama, seat belts work. The three year tracking study found,
- Students are six to eight times safer riding to school in a school bus than riding to school in their parents’ cars.
- The addition of seat belts would make already-safe school buses even safer.
- Based on 170,000 observations of pupils in pilot-project buses, the average seat belt- use rate was 61.5%.
- Adding seat belts increases the thickness of seat-backs, leading to fewer rows of seats.
School bus seat belts might have made a huge difference in yesterday’s fatal school bus accident, but policy makers deemed that they were “too expensive.”
The cost issue was also raised in Connecticut, as well, when the General Assembly last debated mandating that seat belts be put into school buses.
At the time, a special fund was set up to help town mitigate the cost of installing seat belts. To pay for the program the state dramatically increased the fee a driver must pay when reinstating their driver’s license.
But while the extra fee has brought in millions of dollars, none of the money has been used to help towns pay for installing seat belts in buses.
Because Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly STOLE the money from that special fund to help balance the state budget … not once … but twice!
It has been an issue that Wait, What? has written about many times.
For example, in a Wait, What piece entitled, They stole the fricking school bus seat belt money again! and published on June 7, 2016;
Hidden deep inside the new state budget bill negotiated by Governor Dannel Malloy and Democratic legislative leaders, and approved last month by the Democrats in the General Assembly, was a provision that, once again, transferred the money that had been set aside to help school districts retrofit school buses with seat belts into the general fund.
As Wait, What? readers know, this is not the first time Governor Malloy and the Democrats have stolen the School Bus Seatbelt Account in order to make the state budget balance.
Since taking office, Malloy has reached into the special school seat belt fund four times, grabbing close to $10 million dollars.
Rather than use the funds for their intended use – to protect our children – Malloy and the Democrats simply grabbed the money to plug holes in the state budget.
This time, rather than adopt a fair and honest budget, the Democrats added Section 28 to Senate Bill 501 which “transferred” $2 million from the School Bus Seatbelt Account to the General Fund. The legislature also swept $2 million from the Seat Belt fund to address a small part of the $250 million Fiscal Year 2016 budget deficit.
Previous Wait, What articles on this issue can be found via the following links:
The Train Wreck of the Democrats’ State Budget. [Or for long-time Wait, What? readers file under – Not the Fricking School Bus Seat Belts again!] (6/3/2015)
School Bus Seat Belt Fund: A prime example of Connecticut’s budget gimmickry (1/14/2014)
Remember when school bus seatbelts were a big priority?(12/20/2012)
The School Bus Seat Belt Account was created following the tragic January 2010 school bus accident on Route 84 in Hartford that killed a Rocky Hill student who was attending one of the CREC magnet schools. Following the accident, the Connecticut legislature kicked into action, passing Public Act 10-83.
The law created the Connecticut School Bus Seat Belt Account, “a separate non-lapsing account in the General Fund” and required that the funds be used to help school districts pay for the cost of equipping school buses with lap/shoulder (3-point) seat belts.
To pay for the program, the Legislature increased the cost associated with restoring a suspended driver’s license from $125 to $ 175, using the extra $50 per person to create a funding stream for the important program.
Now six years later, no school bus seat belts have been installed, thanks to the fact that Connecticut’s governor and legislature have stolen nearly $10 million from the fund.
When these elected officials come looking for support, ask them why they didn’t do more to stop this outrage.
For more on how Connecticut’s elected officials stole the money meant to help ensure seat belts were installed in school buses read these Wait, What? posts;
Democratic Budget Deal – An irresponsible farce (12/8/2015)
The Train Wreck of the Democrats’ State Budget (6/3/2015)
School Bus Seat Belt Fund: A prime example of Connecticut’s budget gimmickry (1/22/2014)
Remember when school bus seatbelts were a big priority? 12/20/2012