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DOT implements bus safety measures

By Staff
Staff Editorial
Franklin County Times
According to Thomas Barrett, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, school bus crashes produce an average of six fatalities each year. By comparison, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 42,642 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2006.
In spite of the relatively low number of fatal school bus crashes, the DOT has implemented measures to further improve bus safety after a Huntsville school bus crash killed four Lee High School students two years ago.
By 2011, seat backs in all new school buses will be 24 inches, compared to the previous 20-inch standard, and smaller buses weighing less than 10,000 pounds will be required to carry three-point seat belts. The new guidelines will also provide a performance standard for seat belts on new buses to help lower the cost and help figure out which belts are the safest, should schools choose to install them.
Alabama is currently weighing whether to mandate seat belts on school buses since there are conflicting reports on whether they would actually improve safety. Twelve schools have been outfitted with seat belts and cameras as part of a three-year testing program, and a task force should make a recommendation by 2010.
While school buses are already a low-risk mode of transportation, we applaud these efforts and any measure that would make the school commute more safe for students.