A look at school bus safety after Tuesday’s deadly crash in Benton County, MS

Local News

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – Local 24 News is examining school bus safety, one day after a Mississippi bus driver died of a heart attack on his route, injuring nearly a dozen students as the bus flipped on its side.

As the students recover, including four still at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, we examined what’s in place or proposed in Mississippi and other Mid-South states.       

The images of that Benton County, MS school bus flipped on its side Tuesday was especially difficult for parents.

“It’s heartbreaking, I couldn’t even imagine,” Britne Ashmore said.

School bus safety is again a hot topic, after that bus accident on Highway 72 near Ashland, MS.

Late Wednesday afternoon, a Mississippi lawmaker told Local 24 News she plans to reintroduce a bus safety bill which failed this past legislative session. Earlier this year, Magnolia State lawmaker Debra Gibbs introduced legislation, which would have required every Mississippi school bus bought after July 2019 include seat belts and on-board cameras.

The proposal died in committee, but Rep. Gibbs told Local 24 News she plans to introduce it again before next session, which begins in January.

“I think they definitely should reconsider,” Lynda Hooper said. “I think a lot could have been prevented yesterday had the children been in seat belts.”

Some Tennessee lawmakers were also unsuccessful with similar seat belt laws, after six students died in a 2016 Chattanooga bus wreck.

In Arkansas, a law does allow individual school districts to put in school bus seat belts if they choose.

“Is it the money, do they not know how to put them in, or what?” Tina Rentfro said.

Tuesday’s bus crash reached Washington and Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen, who recently proposed several safety measures in the federal School Bus Safety Act.

Rep. Cohen told Local 24 News: “I want to express my condolences to the driver’s family and wish the students sent to LeBonheur a swift recovery. Sadly, this is another instance of the need for the School Bus Safety Act, a bill that I introduced with Senator Duckworth in July. Seatbelts and some of the other safety measures called for by the National Transportation Safety Board that are incorporated in our bill might have prevented some of the injuries in this accident.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers a different take. The organization’s website contends students are 70 times safer getting to school on a bus compared to a car, and argues seat belts aren’t needed on buses because of strong seats and energy absorbing seat backs.

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