Congressman Steve Cohen

Representing the 9th District of Tennessee

Cohen Questions DOT Officials About School Bus Safety at a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Hearing

July 18, 2017
Press Release

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, today questioned safety officials from the U.S. Department of Transportation about school bus safety and contracting oversight issues for bus drivers that may have contributed to the deaths of innocent Americans and school-aged children in Chattanooga, TN and Baltimore, MD in November 2016.

Congressman Cohen questioned why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not yet issued regulations or a rulemaking process to require the installation of life-saving seat belt technology, despite that National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigations dating back to 2010 resulted in recommendations that school buses be equipped with lap/shoulder seat belts.

“Six school-aged children were taken…too early is not the right term. They were taken and that was wrong. No more precious cargo is there for any commercial carrier than school-aged children entrusted by their parents to go and get educated and get a better life. In both cases it seems there were a number of safety precautions and oversight issues that could have prevented or mitigated the risk of injuries and fatalities suffered from the unfortunate events,” Congressman Cohen stated in his remarks.

Congressman Cohen went on to ask the NTSB and NHTSA why they have failed to initiate a rulemaking process to mandate the installation of seat belts on school buses, despite their unequivocally affirmative positions on the need for three-point seat belts.

“I’ve been working on this [school bus safety] since the 1990s. I have always had school boards against it. They didn’t want to spend the money. The money should come secondary to safety…Dollars shouldn’t be the issue with our precious cargo.”

Video of Congressman Cohen’s remarks can be found here.

In January 2017, Congressman Cohen, Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), and Congressman John Duncan, Jr. (R-TN) sent a letter Congressmen Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, to request a hearing on school bus safety. You can read that letter here.

In December 2016, Congressman Cohen introduced the Bring Enhanced Liability in Transportation for Students (BELTS) Act to help protect children who ride on school buses. You can read more about that bill, which the Congressman plans to reintroduce, here.