EDITORIAL: School bus seatbelt law is a good start, but it’s not enough

GOV. PHIL MURPHY signed a law, last week, requiring all school buses in New Jersey manufactured from February 2019 and beyond be fitted with three-point seatbelts.

In more simple terms, the buses must be equipped with waist and shoulder restraints at every available seat so all passengers can be buckled in properly.

We applaud Murphy for signing this bill into law following the tragic bus crash that took two lives in Mount Olive, on Interstate 80, earlier this year.

And while this is a good start, we donít think the law goes far enough.

Before now, it was pretty easy to say that the very buses that are supposed to safely transport precious children to schools, trips, sporting events, etc., were rediculously suited for keeping kids safe.

One Observer staff member, a former teacher, says he never felt comfortable on school buses ó in fact, he says even hitting small potholes would send kids flying out of their seats, into the air, especially those seated in the rear of a bus.

Hereís why we think the new law, while solid, isnít strong enough.

First, we believe the buses should also let out the same obnoxious alerts that cars give off when a person doesnít buckle up. This would give drivers the impetus not to drive until the belts are properly fastened.

Next, we believe a mechanism should also be built into the buses that prevent them from being in motion when a passenger is seated ó and not buckled properly.

Have you ever seen a school bus when one is at a traffic light ó or if youíre driving along side one?

What do you often see?

Kids standing.

Kids walking around the bus from seat to seat.

Kids huddled in the center aisle.

We could go on and on here.

In addition to being dangerous simply for the way kids sit on the buses, we also believe the buses are a spot where bullying happens far too often.

And while it may not seem overly necessary, we firmly believe keeping kids properly in their seats will lead to less bullying on the buses.

We thank Gov. Murphy for his wisdom in enacting this new law. We just think it needs some fine tuning.

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