July 26, 2019

Duckworth & Cohen Re-Introduce Legislation to Improve School Bus Safety Ahead of Students Going Back to School


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – As students across Illinois prepare to return to school for the beginning of the new school year, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Representative Steve Cohen (TN-09) re-introduced the School Bus Safety Act to help keep students safe as they travel to and from school while also helping prevent accidents involving school buses. Their legislation 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 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 modify school buses to meet these important safety modifications.

“No parent should have to worry about the safety of their children when they get on a school bus, but school buses often lack seat belts and other basic safety equipment that every parent demands,” Duckworth said. “Nothing is more important than protecting our children, which is why I’m proud to be re-introducing the School Bus Safety Act with Rep. Cohen to help prevent accidents, make accidents less severe and implement other commonsense safety recommendations that will save lives.”

“There’s no more precious cargo than school-aged children entrusted by their parents for a ride to school to get a good education,” said Cohen. “The commonsense measures called for in this legislation will save young lives. I am pleased to re-introduce this legislation with Senator Duckworth to make school buses across the country safer while helping often financially strapped school districts modify their school bus fleets. We’ve seen too many deaths in school bus accidents in Tennessee and elsewhere and it’s past time we act to save young lives.” 

The School Bus Safety Act 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.
  • A Fire Suppression System, which addresses engine fires.
  • A Firewall that prohibits hazardous quantities of gas or flame to pass through the firewall from the engine compartment to the passenger compartment.

“Parents and caregivers should not have to fear for their child’s safety when riding in a school bus,” said Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) President Cathy Chase. “Unfortunately, gaps in required safety systems are needlessly putting students at risk.  Advocates lauds Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) for introducing the School Bus Safety Act of 2019, which would advance numerous commonsense upgrades to keep kids safe.  The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended many of these improvements, including requirements for three-point seat belts, automatic emergency braking and electronic stability control.  We urge swift passage of this essential safety bill.”

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.