September 06, 2019

As School Year Begins, Duckworth Highlights Legislation to Improve School Bus Safety


[CHICAGO, IL] – With Chicago Public Schools and students across the country going back to school this month, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) visited Little Village Academy in Chicago today where she highlighted her recently re-introduced legislation to make school buses safer for children. Duckworth’s School Bus Safety Act would implement safety recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board to make school buses safer by ensuring there are seat belts at every seat and new buses are equipped with safety measures like stability control and automatic braking systems. The bill would also create a grant program to help school districts update school buses with these important safety enhancements. Duckworth was joined by Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and Maureen Vogel, of the National Safety Council. Photos from today’s event are available here.

“No parent should have to worry about the safety of their children when they get on a school bus, yet buses often lack seatbelts and other basic safety equipment,” Duckworth said. “The School Bus Safety Act provides commonsense safety recommendations that will save lives by preventing accidents, and making those tragic accidents that do happen less severe.”

“While school bus crashes may be infrequent, when they do happen, they can be catastrophic,” Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety President Cathy Chase said. “Unfortunately, as the school year gets underway, many buses lack basic safety protections.  We commend Senator Tammy Duckworth for her leadership and efforts to address these safety gaps.  We urge Congress to pass the School Bus Safety Act, which would implement important upgrades recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board. Children are our most precious passengers and the buses they depend on to get to and from school and events must be equipped with seat belts and other essential safety features.”

“School buses remain the safest way to transport our children to and from school, but we know we can do more to make our buses even safer,” said Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “We are proud to support Senator Duckworth’s legislation and will continue to work with her on advancements that protect our most vulnerable passengers.”

The School Bus Safety Act, which Duckworth introduced with Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN-09), would require the Department of Transportation issue rules requiring all school buses include:

  • A 3-point safety belt, which includes a seat belt across a lap as well as a shoulder harness to help protect passengers by restraining them in case of a collision.
  • An Automatic Emergency Braking System, which helps prevent accidents and crashes by detecting objects or vehicles ahead of the bus and braking automatically.
  • An Event Data Recorder (EDR) that can record pre- and post-crash data, driver inputs, and restraint usage and when a collision does occur.
  • An Electronic Stability Control (ESC) System that will use automatic computer-controlled braking of individual wheels to assist the driver remain in control of the vehicle.
  • Fire Suppression System, which addresses engine fires.
  • Firewall that prohibits hazardous quantities of gas or flame to pass through the firewall from the engine compartment to the passenger compartment.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 1,241 people have died in school transportation-related crashes between 2008 and 2017, which is an average of 124 people each year. That includes a pair of tragic school bus accidents in 2016 that took place in Baltimore, Maryland and Chattanooga, Tennessee, both of which resulted in six fatalities.

As the Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Transportation & Safety Subcommittee, Duckworth has been a strong advocate for transportation safety across the country. In response to a letter that she sent with her colleagues earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently announced it will evaluate the effectiveness of nationwide “Move Over” laws to better protect first-responders. Earlier this year, Duckworth also secured commitments from top transportation officials and stakeholders to address important train safety and performance issues, such as Positive Train Control (PTC) implementation.