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Q&A:


Sen. Tammy Duckworth Discusses the Federal School Bus Safety Act


WITH TAYLOR HANNON | TAYLOR@STNONLINE.COM


in a side-impact collision or roll- over crash, while riding in a large school bus without a seatbelt. In a perfect world, industry and


S


en. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois attended the 51st an- nual NASDPTS conference in Washington, D.C. last month to discuss the School Bus Safety Act of 2019, which she reintroduced along with Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee earlier this year, and the safety implications it would have on schoolchildren. Duckworth is an Iraq War Veteran, a Purple Heart recipient and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. She shared with School Transportation News her vision for legislating school bus safety enhancements that echo recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board. Read details on H.R. 3959, which was reintroduced on July 25, at stnonline.com/go/66.


School Transportation News: How and why did you become in- volved with introducing the School Bus Safety Act of 2019?


Duckworth: The National Trans- portation Safety Board (NTSB) has been warning the public for years about the risk of serious injury or death for students that are involved


regulators would have demonstrat- ed leadership in coming togeth- er, with or without legislation, to achieve the goal of making sure every new school bus is equipped with a three-point safety belt. Unfortunately, both industry and safety regulators appear more interested in defending the status quo than making investments to improve student safety. This failure to lead is why I joined Congress- man Steve Cohen in introducing the “School Bus Safety Act.” Our bill would simply require industry and regulators to implement existing NTSB safety recommendations for school buses.


STN: What was it about NTSB’s recent school bus safety recom- mendations that prompted you to update and reintroduce the legisla- tion this year?


Duckworth: NTSB focuses on scientific, data-driven outcomes that are informed by real-world circumstances and tragedies. Requiring three-point seatbelts, emergency braking, fireproofing and other safety technologies to keep kids safe strikes me as com- mon sense.


STN: After seeing interior footage of school buses during a rollover or side-impact crash, what was your initial reaction? Has your opinion about the need for 3-point belts changed since then?


Duckworth: When a large school bus rolls over and children aren’t buckled in, no one should be surprised that students are hurled


14 THE SHOW REPORTER • NOV 2-5, 2019


into metal roofs or even ejected from the bus. Industry often compares school buses without seatbelts to a carton of eggs. And sometimes I wonder whether the author of those talking points has actually ever had a carton of eggs fall onto the ground and roll over, because the sight isn’t exactly confidence-inspiring. This isn’t theoretical. Individuals


have already been killed in these types of crashes, just as passengers have been killed in motor coach crashes. A major difference is that when it comes to motor coach- es, Congress acted to pass a law requiring large motor coaches be equipped with 3-point seatbelts and other safety upgrades, while simply accepting the status quo for large school buses. I hope school- bus safety advocates, regulators and school districts can work together to encourage the im- plementation of common-sense safety policies.


STN: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) just published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that calls for alerts when rear-seated passengers aren’t wearing their seatbelts. Do you want to see any requirement extend to school buses? ›


Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois spoke to NASDPTS Annual Conference attendees in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 16, 2019.


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