- To drive a school bus in Tennessee, applicants must now be at least 25, complete a school bus driver safety program, and have five years of consecutive driving experience under a law that took effect Monday, the Tennessean reports.
- Passed in response to a 2016 bus crash in Chattanooga in which six elementary school children were killed, the law also requires districts and charter schools to have transportation supervisors. The driver involved in the crash was speeding and talking on a cellphone.
- The legislation, however, does not require new school buses to include seat belts, the newspaper reports.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a school bus is still the safest way to transport children to school.
Even so, whether school buses should have seat belts has long been a matter of debate. In 2017, lawmakers in 29 states considered bills relating to seat belts on school buses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Currently seven states — Arkansas, California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York and Texas — have passed legislation involving seat belt use on school buses, but in some of those states, there is no funding attached for districts to implement the law.
In the past, NHTSA’s position was that because of the design of school buses, known as compartmentalization, seat belts have not been considered necessary to keep children safe. The buses are heavier than vans and light trucks, which allows the forces from crashes to be distributed differently and minimizing injuries. But in 2015, NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said that “seat belts save lives,” no matter what kind of vehicle is involved. He called for three-point seat belts on all school buses, and said the agency would “use all the tools available" in seeking to maximize safety for the nation’s schoolchildren.