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The Illinois Secretary of State has given his blessing to legislation that would mandate seat belts on all state school buses, but local school officials are not on board with the idea.
For Monticello Superintendent Vic Zimmerman, it’s a matter of cost and enforcement for a measure he is not sure would be a significant increase in safety.
“School buses are built to be some of the safest vehicles on the road. I am not convinced that the required installation of seat belts in school buses will improve the overall safety of students who are riding on the bus,” said Zimmerman.
Bement Super-intendent Sheila Greenwood agrees.
“School buses have built-in safety measures, like padded seats, high seat backs, emergency exits in the back and on the roof. I find it extremely hard to believe that students would stay buckled into their seats. And who is monitoring that and assisting kids?” she said. “Bad idea, probably with good intent.”
Legislation has been introduced in the Illinois General Assembly that would require 3-point seat belts on school buses. State Secretary of State Jesse White said the move is supported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and that 3-point belts offer better protection to the chest, waist and shoulder areas than the 2-point belts of the past.
“My mission is to make Illinois roads the safest ever,” said White. “This new legislation will help us accomplish this goal.”
Blue Ridge Supe-rintendent Susan Wilson said she is not opposed to seat belts as a rule, but “recognize that it can be very hard to enforce a seat belt rule throughout a bus on a consistent basis.”
Then there is the cost, which comes at a time when the State of Illinois has not provided any transportation reimbursements this fiscal year. The legislation only requires new buses to be outfitted with 3-point belts, but it would likely add to the purchase price for school districts. Zimmerman said enforcement could also require bus monitors, estimated to run $100,000 annual for Monticello schools.
“I think that the State of Illinois has much larger issues to consider and wish that the legislators could focus their time on the higher priority tasks at hand,” added Zimmerman.