Governor Rick Perry today signed into law House Bill 323, requiring school buses to have lap-shoulder, or "three-point," seat belts in each seat for the safety of students. The governor was joined by state lawmakers and families of the students involved in the West Brook High School bus crash in 2006.
"This legislation will not only save lives, it will give parents peace of mind every morning their children leave their home for school and climb aboard a school bus," said Perry. "Putting seat belts on school buses will give parents greater assurance that their precious children will be safer when they are out of their sight and not under their control."
In March 2006, a school bus transporting the West Brook High School girl's soccer team and coaches crashed and rolled over, killing two girls and injuring many more. Fatal bus accidents involving students have made national news since the 2006 tragedy, most recently involving a boy's baseball team traveling through Atlanta, Georgia.
HB 323 aims to prevent injuries by requiring school buses or buses chartered by schools to be equipped with a "three-point" seat belt. The bill includes provisions stating:
* "Three point" seat belts must be present in all school buses purchased by a school district after September 1, 2010. Charter buses used by school districts to transport students must be equipped with seat belts beginning September 1, 2011.
* The State Board of Education (SBOE) must develop a training program for all districts regarding proper use of the "three-point" seat belts. The SBOE will also serve as a statewide clearinghouse for best practices in school bus safety.
* Seat belts must be worn by students and the bus driver when present on bus transporting students effective immediately.
The Austin and Beaumont Independent School Districts have already adopted the practice of using school buses equipped with seat belts, taking positive steps toward ensuring the safety of their students.
HB 323 takes effect September 1, 2007.