For the first time, federal investigators are calling for new safety standards on school buses including seat belts.
In Chattanooga, Tennessee six elementary school students died in a 2016 bus crash. The driver received jail time after prosecutors said he was speeding and talking on his cell phone when he lost control.
But during a Tuesday hearing NTSB investigator Shawn Currie said seat belts could have saved lives.
“Significant to survivability was that passengers were thrown out of their seating compartments as the bus was swerving out of control,’ said Currie.
Until now the NTSB only said states should consider the benefits of seatbelts on school buses.
As a result of a joint investigation into the Chattanooga case and another school bus crash in Baltimore, Maryland, the NTSB board made several new recommendations. They include that new school buses should have seatbelts.
“I feel like we have as an agency, we have tiptoed around that for a long time and its time to take a hard stance on that,” said NTSB board chair, Robert Sumwalt
The board also voted to recommend that federal regulators require manufacturers to equip new buses with safety technology, like electronic stability control.
If ultimately adopted the new requirements would likely end up as a significant cost increase to local school districts.
But Sumwalt feels cost of change is worth it, stating “Go out and meet the families who have suffered losses of their children, this is a tragedy and we’ve got to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”
The issue now goes to state legislatures that will have to decide whether to implement the NTSB’s seatbelt recommendations.