Are school buses safe in Indiana?

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Six states have school bus seat belt laws. Indiana is not one of them.

Legislation was proposed back in 2014 to start requiring new buses to have seat belts and equip all of them by 2019 with the safety feature, but it did not pass. Still a number of central Indiana school districts have started working to make sure seat belts will be a part of students commute.

About one year ago, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration endorsed seat belts on school buses.

Westfield-Washington was one of the first in Indiana to take on the cost. The district was part of a pilot program with local company IMMI. School leaders say the seat belt manufacturer helped pay for the labor, while Westfield paid for the parts to get the seat belts in six buses. Westfield has more than 70 buses total. School leaders say putting belts in all of them would cost more than a million dollars.

Indianapolis Public Schools is also working to get kids strapped in on the bus. The district started the school year with 100 new propane-fueled buses, all of which have seat belts.

IPS school leaders hope the board will move forward with 200 more new buses in 2017.

There is opposition to seat belts in school buses. Some believe they could slow evacuations of a bus if necessary. Others worry they will decrease capacity on buses and cost districts too much to install.