LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The National Transportation Safety Board recommends that all new buses be equipped with lap and shoulder belts.
Arkansas’s law centers on school buses purchased after 2018, but most schools have a fleet of older buses, and if you want seatbelts on those you have to do a lot of work-, including getting people to agree to pay for it.
A hard-to-watch video of an Ohio school bus rolling on its side after getting hit by a car, causing several students on board to go to the hospital, led many parents across the nation to wonder about their children’s bus safety policies.
The good news is that Arkansas is one of the only eight states with a law that specifically requires buses to have seatbelts.
But, getting those belts on buses, is really up to the community members.
“We sit here and think, ‘well, this could never happen in Arkansas,’ or, ‘it could never happen in my school district,'” Former State House Representative Mark McElroy said.
“But it can happen. And the sad part is, it’s just a matter of time before it does, I”m afraid.”
McElroy sponsored the original school bus seat belt bill in 2014 in honor of a 5th grader’s request.
He had originally told her that it was too expensive.
“And she looked at me and said, ‘well, how much is my life worth?’ And, it hit me to the core.”
The bill became law in 2017, and it requires the public to petition the local school board to create a new tax to pay for the seatbelts to either add to old buses or to purchase new buses with seatbelts.
“It’s really sad, of course,” McElroy said. “The people are going to have to take the initiative. It’s up to the public.”
We reached out to the Arkansas Department of Transportation, who said it is unaware of any school district that has implemented a tax to pay for seat belts on school buses.