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State legislators will begin discussing the Belts On Buses Bill in Nashville

State legislators will begin discussing the Belts On Buses Bill in Nashville this month.

The Seat Belts on School Buses legislation was initially pulled last year with the intention of being easier to pass in the 2018 fiscal year.  During this break, State Representative JoAnne Favors (D-Chattanooga) attended a seat belt safety summit in Westfield, Indiana. While at this conference she watched a demonstration involving a semi-truck hitting the side of a school bus. Crash Test Dummies were used to demonstrate the effectiveness of seatbelts and the difference it could make in a side impact crash. Some of the crash test dummies were in seatbelts while others were not buckled, like school buses are now. During the crash test, the crash test dummy not buckled was thrown out of the bus window.

"I started reliving what happened that day, November 21st," State Representative. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga said. "I started thinking about that. When you try to imagine things that you don't really know, thinking about what was going through those children's minds, how frightened they probably were."

"I came away with a sense of urgency that we don't need to delay this," State Representative Favors said.

Favors plans to reintroduce her bill for the upcoming legislative session. It would put seat belts on new school buses ordered in Tennessee after July, 2019.

She's been working with Tom Lee of Civic Point and nearly two dozen other state lawmakers to get the proposal passed.

"There is something in these very serious side impact rollover crashes that is not met by merely the design of the school bus and compartmentalization," Lee said.

Some people do not support the bill have argued that in the extreme situation of the bus catching fire, or submerged under water, it would be difficult for the children to escape.

Other concerns, are the cost that is associated with adding seatbelts to buses. The state and local school systems would share an estimated cost of $15 million per year.

"You can't put a cost on a life," State Rep. Favors said. "You can't do that, and so I'll just continue to say that."

When the bill is reintroduced, it will start where it was left in 2017, in the House Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee. If it passes, it'll head to the full House Finance Committee and then the House floor.

The General Assembly will reconvene at noon CST on Tuesday, January 9, 2018

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