Senator Fuschillo Renews Call For Seat Belt Usage On School Buses

Charles J. Fuschillo Jr.

April 28, 2005

Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (8th Senate District) today renewed his call for the required use of seat belts on school buses throughout New York State. This renewed effort comes in light of the recent school bus accident involving students from St. Christopher’s School in Baldwin, in which the school bus they were aboard overturned on a roadway in Queens.

"New York State mandates that all passengers under the age of 16 wear a seat belt when traveling in a private vehicle but that same protection is not afforded to our students as they travel to and from school. This is a contrast that must be remedied so that the children are taught consistently that seat belts save lives," stated Senator Fuschillo. "New York State must be uniform in its approach to the safety of our children and in what we teach our children at home and in our schools."

Senator Fuschillo has sponsored legislation that would require all passengers on any school bus equipped with seat belts throughout New York State to utilize those safety belts. According to the legislation, operation of the school bus would be prohibited until after all in the bus were duly protected. The legislation also would call for a sign to be posted on every school bus stating that New York State law requires the usage of seat belts while the bus is in operation.

Since 1987, New York State has required that all school buses manufactured for use after July 1, 1987 include seat belts. However, the decision to require whether or not students must use them is made by the school board of each individual school board. According to the New York State Education Department, only ten school districts on Long Island and 26 districts statewide have adopted a policy calling for the usage of seat belts on their school buses.

State law does currently require that all bus drivers be restrained by a safety belt before operation commences.

This legislation would once again put New York State at the forefront of school bus safety. The state was the first in the nation to enact a law requiring installation of seat belts on all school buses, and is one of only five states, along with New Jersey, Florida, Louisiana, and California, to have such a law in place. If New York makes the use of seat belts on school buses mandatory, it would join Florida as the only two states in the Country with such protections.

"School buses remain one of the most statistically safe modes of travel and there is no need to doubt their safety," added Senator Fuschillo. "But there is also no reason to limit how far we will go to protect our school children as they travel to and from school."

The legislation is currently before the Education Committee of the New York State Senate.