School bus safety concerns after Chattanooga crash

WESTFIELD, Ind. (WISH) – After Monday’s deadly school bus crash in Chattanooga, TN, safety experts are again questioning why seat belts aren’t required on school buses.

Investigators are still determining what led up to the crash.

The bus in the Chattanooga crash did not have seat belts.

“They are the only vehicle on our roads and on our interstates that are not required to have lap and shoulder belts on them, and they’re carrying our most precious cargo,” said Julie Cooley, the director of marketing communications for IMMI.

The Westfeld-based company manufactures and installs seat belts on school buses and other large vehicles.

“Anytime that seat belts, the lap shoulder belts have been introduced in a vehicle, they reduced injuries and saved lives almost 50 percent of the time,” she said.

Six states require seat belts on school buses, though other states are moving legislation.

Indiana does not require them.

Last year the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration endorsed seat belts but the recommendation didn’t come with funding.

It can cost up to $15,000 to retrofit a school bus with seat belts.

“What it takes is really a commitment by the school and forward thinking administrators,” she said.

After Monday’s crash police arrested 24 year old Johnthony Walker on 5 counts of vehicular homicide. The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security says Walker had a previous property damage crash case as well as a failure to show proof of insurance on his driving record. They say both happened before he got a CDL

School bus drivers in Indiana are required to undergo a national background check. They must also be certified. In order to get their certification they must have a valid driver’s license, pass a physical, and obtain a CDL.

Indiana bus drivers must also attend annual safety courses.

As for the seat belts more and more school districts are installing them. Over the summer Indianapolis Public Schools bought 100 new buses, all of them had lap and shoulder seat belts.