Chattanooga Parents Advocate For Seat Belts On School Buses

Posted at 6:00 PM, Mar 22, 2017

Parents and community members from Chattanooga traveled to Nashville to sit in a meeting discussing the future of a proposed bill requiring school buses to have seat belts. 

Representative JoAnne Favors sponsored HB 0395 that would require schools buses ordered or purchased on or after July 1, 2018 to be equipped with seat belts. 

About 20 people traveled from Chattanooga by bus to advocate for the bill. Many wore "Pray for Woodmore, Act for Woodmore" shirts to show support for the families of the six Woodmore Elementary School students killed in a bus crash in November. 

"We definitley don't want those six kids whose lives are now gone over something so routine to be in vain," Alexandrya Frazier told NewsChannel 5.

Frazier's 11-year-old daughter was on board the school bus, but survived with a broken and two concussions. Her daughter told NewsChannel 5 she was scared as the bus kept hitting speed bumps and curves, and everybody was bouncing up and down.

It's been four months since the fatal crash, but it's still been a tough journey to healing for the community. 

"I'm a firm believer that Jesus was there because it could have been all 37 of us burying our child," Frazier said.

The school bus driver, 24-year-old Jonthony Walker, has been accused of speeding and swerving into a tree with more than 30 kids on board. 

Walker was indicted on six counts of vehicular homicide earily in March.

"Three months later it feels so surreal for that bus to come up the hill and our babies are not out there," Frazier tearfully said. 

Those who traveled to the Capitol on Wednesday believe the children would not have died or been severely injured if the school bus had safety restraints. 

The topic of seat belts on school buses has been in the forefront of many families and government officials, especially since the deadly crash. 

"I truly believe that the pain of those families and suffering of those children could have been prevented or lessened," Dr. Alan Kohrt, Chief Medical Officer, Children's Hospital at Erlanger, said before the committee. "That night was without a doubt the most difficult night of my professional life."

The medical staff who spoke off-session pleaded for the lawmakers to support the bill as they argued that seat belts would have minimized injuries.

Members of the transportation subcommittee meeting voted to move the bill to the full transportation committee. Parents who were at the meeting said they will be back and hope to bring even more people. 

READ MORE: School Bus Seat Belt Bill Moves Forward

"I'm pleased about it, and we have time to work on the fiscal note. I'm just overcome because this was such an emotional issue for all of us," Representative Favors said. 

The Chatanooga law firm Warren & Griffin has filed at least four lawsuits on behalf of the children's families. Currently, there have been more than a dozen lawsuits following the deadly incident.

The attorneys of the firm started the online petition "Belts on the Buses" to pass what has been listed as "common sense safety regulations."

According to the Tennessee General Assembly Fiscal Review Committee, it would cost local municipalities across the state $70 million.