Congressmen Cohen and Sires and Senator Duckworth Introduce the School Bus Safety Act

May 20, 2021
Press Release
Measure would require seatbelts, modern safety equipment

WASHINGTON – Congressmen Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Albio Sires (NJ-08) today introduced the School Bus Safety Act, requiring school buses to be equipped with three-point seat belts, emergency braking system and other modern safety equipment. Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois plans to introduce companion legislation in the Senate in the weeks ahead. Congressman Cohen is a senior member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Congressman Cohen made the following statement:

“The School Bus Safety Act is commonsense safety legislation. The NTSB has made it clear that seatbelts on school buses would save lives. Other measures are needed to assure that the precious children carried in school buses reach their schools and get back home safely. It is long overdue reform.”

Congressman Sires made the following statement:

“As a former public-school teacher, I know that protecting the health and safety of our children is of the highest importance. I’m proud to introduce this legislation with Representative Cohen to implement commonsense measures that will improve the safety of school buses and protect children on their way to and from school.”

Senator Duckworth made the following statement:

“No parent should have to worry about the safety of their children when they get on a school bus, yet buses often lack seatbelts and other basic safety equipment,” Duckworth said. “The School Bus Safety Act provides commonsense safety recommendations that will save lives by preventing accidents, and making those tragic accidents that do happen less severe.”

The School Bus Safety Act would require the Department of Transportation to issue rules requiring all school buses to include:

  • A three-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; 
  • 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; 
  • 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 before and during a crash, driver inputs, and restraint usage when a collision occurred; and 
  • An Electronic Stability Control (ESC) System, which uses automatic computer-controlled braking of individual wheels to assist the driver to remain in control of the vehicle. 

Supporters statements:

“School bus crashes should not be catastrophic tragedies when solutions to improve safety are known and available,” said Cathy Chase President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.  “Advocates applauds Representatives Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Albio Sires (D-NJ) for introducing legislation to require essential protections for our nation’s most precious passengers.  Three-point seat belts, automatic emergency braking, electronic stability control and improved fire prevention are commonsense upgrades.  These key recommendations were identified by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and every new school bus should be equipped with them.  As more school districts return to normal operations and make plans to do so in the fall, we urge Congress to promptly advance this lifesaving bill.”

“NSC applauds the reintroduction of the School Bus Safety Act by Representatives Cohen and Sires,” said Jane Terry, vice president of government affairs, National Safety Council. “Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children, and we know passenger seatbelts on school buses and safe school bus loading zones are key to saving young lives. NSC supports these efforts and will continue to support this critical legislation until it becomes law.”