Council Recommends Metro School Board Require Seat Belts on Buses

Posted at 10:45 PM, Dec 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-22 00:00:09-05

Metro council members unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday night recommending school board officials require new buses be equipped with seat belts.

The topic about adding seatbelts to school buses has been a popular topic after November’s deadly Chattanooga school bus crash that killed six elementary school students.

Councilwoman Karen Y. Johnson said this topic has been discussed in the past.

“It's been a long-term conversation throughout the years but because of budget reasons it has always been off the table but I think that due to this tragedy that we just saw in Chattanooga, it has revised some of those conversations and the thinking of parents asking are my children safe,” Johnson said.

Metro School officials estimated seat belts would add $12,000 to the cost of each new bus.
School officials also said Metro will need to buy more buses because two children can sit on buses with seat belts compared to three.

Officials pointed out that every bus costs Metro $40,000 to 50,000 to operate each year.

Johnson said funding from the federal and state level will help.

"I think that there will be funding available to local municipalities and when that time comes I think we need to seriously consider factoring that in and looking at where we are at that point and then making a decision based on that funding and the local funding as well," she said.

Anna Shepherd with the Metro school board said keeping students safe is a no-brainer.

“It's tragic that it took six little babies to die that we're talking about this more seriously today than we were a year ago. A lot of times we are reactive instead of proactive and so if we can be proactive on this I think it's the right thing to do,” Shepherd said.

She said she knows council members realize equipping buses with seatbelts comes with a price.

“They know that we come to them for a final approval of our budget and so it's my hope that they will approve that expense for us without taking it away from another area.

Both Shepherd and Johnson agree you can’t put a price tag on the safety of children.