Seat belts not required on school buses in Tennessee, Virginia

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HAWKINS COUNTY, TN (WJHL)- Investigators revealed Tuesday the school bus that wrecked in Chattanooga wasn’t equipped with seat belts.

News Channel 11 learned Tuesday evening that may be more common than you think.

While kids must wear a seat belt in a moving car, students ride school buses every day without any safety restraints here in the Tri-Cities region.

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Federal transportation officials have said every school bus should have seat belts, but the fact is there’s no federal mandate.

So some school systems in our region have buses without seat belts, and say changing that could take money they don’t have.

Tuesday evening as we walked around with Hawkins County Schools Transportation Director Clifford Bunch, a quick look around a school bus showed its lacking one safety feature all passenger vehicles have, seat belts.

“They continue to upgrade school buses as far as the safety parts of them especially on the inside of the buses,” Bunch said.

Hawkins County isn’t alone, only six states actually require seat belts on school buses, and states like Virginia and Tennessee aren’t on that list.

It is something the nation was reminded of Tuesday just 24 hours after a deadly bus crash in Chattanooga.

Despite the fact that its not a state law, some local school districts like Kingsport City Schools are in fact equipped with seat belts.

Back in Hawkins County Bunch said just the thought of installing seat belts like they have in Kingsport brings up the question of how they would pay for them.

Courtesy: CBS News
Courtesy: CBS News

 

“Funding would be a major thing, when you are talking about 100 school buses, and you are talking about $10,000 a bus, you know that’s a lot of money,” Bunch said.

Bunch says while he believes seat belts could help in certain situations, he is confident when kids get on their buses every day, they are safe.

“That bus is the safest mode of transportation that there is,” Bunch said.

On Tuesday some Tennessee lawmakers called for state legislation requiring seat belts on school buses.

Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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