By Bob Katzen

The House gave initial approval to a bill requiring school buses with more than 16 seats to be equipped with lap shoulder seat belts.

“I filed this legislation to enhance safety of our children while riding a school bus,” said Rep. James Dwyer (D-Woburn). “Parents send their children to school and expect us to do everything we can to keep them safe.”

Supporters said the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Safety Council have long recommended that passenger seat belts be installed on all newly manufactured school buses. “That’s the best protection that we can give our kids, said council president Deborah Hersman. “It’s what they’re used to in cars. We know that there are very few fatalities involving children on school buses every year – they are a safe form of transportation – but anything we can do to make them safer is really our responsibility.”

Opponents said that school buses are already considered to be very safe. They noted that adding seat belts can be costly and requiring their installation might result in reducing a city or town’s funding of other critical safety aspects like crossing guards. Some noted that there is no scientific or empirical data that shows seat belts on school buses would offer more protection.

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