Md. lawmaker renews call for seat belts on school buses after fatal Chattanooga crash

WASHINGTON — The Tennessee school bus that crashed a week ago killing six children has rekindled questions whether school buses should come equipped with seat belts.

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Maryland Sen. Jim Brochin, D-Baltimore, whose school bus seat belt bill stalled last legislative session, hopes to reintroduce the measure at the start of the new General Assembly session in January.

“You got little kids that are enclosed basically in a steel cage. And when the bus violently swerves or gets in an accident, these kids become airborne and they’re susceptible to serious injury,” said Brochin.

Maryland, Virginia and D.C. are among the 44 states that do not require seat belts for children on school buses. The high cost of refitting buses with shoulder and lap belts could be contributing to the reluctance of states to require them, NBC Washington reported.

“We have to make a determination as far as policymakers, which is, how much is a kid’s life worth?” Brochin told WTOP.

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles said seat belts are unnecessary on school buses because the high, padded bench seats offer occupant protection. The DMV likens school bus seat height, length and padding to an egg carton protecting eggs.

Brochin said the cost of his proposal could be reduced dramatically if seat belts were required only on newly manufactured school buses.

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