Lawmakers tackle bill to require seatbelts on school buses

LAS VEGAS - Nevada lawmakers are saying it's time to stop kicking the can down the road when it comes to child safety.

Attempts to require seatbelts in school buses have been cost prohibitive but a bill to do that has a good chance of being adopted.

The sponsor of AB485 says the 14 children hurt aboard the school bus in Thursday's crash shows a need for seatbelts. That crash, and our inquiry about what else could be done to improve safety, has brought the bill to the forefront.

"I know that Patrick Walker of Channel 8 news had contacted me and I went to go see you to see if we could move this bill up," said Democratic state Senator Mark Manendo who was addressing a legislative committee.

"There have been what seems like an unusual amount of school buses involved in crashes in Clark County since the beginning of 2017," said Democratic Assemblyman Richard Carrillo, Clark County.

He cited 64 CCSD school bus related crashes in January, in addition to 495 in the 2015-2016 school year as a reason to rethink safety.

But bus seat belt bills have stalled several times. Cost has been a big factor as lawmakers tackled similar bills.

"What has changed now to make this necessary today that wasn't there in the past?" said Republican state Senator Don Gustavson, Clark County.

"The story from the children inside that bus was one of chaos, kids flying out of their seats, backpacks, dirt flying," Senator Carrillo said.

Adding seatbelts to the current 950 bus fleet could cost as much as $30,000 25-30 thousand per bus. On new buses, the cost for the upgrade is a third of that.

CCSD testified in support of the bill because it wouldn't take effect until the next state budget kicks in leaving room to budget for and request additional funding.

In the hearing, CCSD testified that it replaces about 100 buses per year so it would take 10 years to replace the entire fleet with buses that have seat belts. 

If the bill passes, the Washoe County School District is already in compliance. The bill's sponsor says that the school district already buys new buses that have seat belts installed.


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