Congressman Steve Cohen

Representing the 9th District of Tennessee

As Students Go Back to School, Duckworth & Cohen Introduce Legislation to Improve School Bus Safety

September 12, 2018
Press Release


WASHINGTON -- As students across the U.S. return to school for the beginning of the new school year, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Representative Steve Cohen (TN-09) introduced the School Bus Safety Act today to help keep students safe as they travel to and from school while also helping prevent accidents involving school buses. Their legislation would implement safety recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board to make school buses safer by ensuring there are seat belts at every seat and buses are equipped with safety measures like stability control and automatic braking systems. The bill would also create a grant program to help school districts modify school buses to meet these important safety modifications.

“There’s no more precious cargo than school-aged children entrusted by their parents for a ride to school to earn an education and pave the way to a better life. The common sense measures called for in this legislation will save young lives,” said Congressman Cohen. “I am pleased to join Senator Duckworth in introducing legislation to make school buses across the country safer while helping often financially strapped school districts modify their school bus fleets in a timely manner. We’ve seen enough deaths in school bus accidents in Tennessee and elsewhere and it’s past time we act to save young lives.”

“No parent should have to worry about the safety of their children when they get on a school bus each day, but school buses often lack seat belts and basic safety equipment,” Duckworth said. “I am introducing this legislation to prevent accidents, reduce the severity of accidents when they occur and implement other commonsense safety recommendations because nothing is more important than protecting our children.”

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

  • A 3-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.
  • 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 pre- and post-crash data, driver inputs, and restraint usage when a collision does occur.
  • An Electronic Stability Control (ESC) System that will use automatic computer-controlled braking of individual wheels to assist the driver to remain in control of the vehicle.

“The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and safety advocates have long called for all school buses to be equipped with seat belts and other proven safety technologies like automatic emergency braking and electronic stability control systems,” says Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “These lifesaving tools offer some of our youngest and most vulnerable passengers essential protections in a crash. With kids across the country starting the new school year, Congress should ensure these elementary safeguards are in place by passing the School Bus Safety Act. We commend Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) for their leadership in introducing this critically important legislation.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 1,282 people have died in school transportation-related crashes between 2007 and 2016, which is an average of 128 people each year. That includes a pair of tragic school bus accidents in 2016 that took place in Baltimore, Maryland and Chattanooga, Tennessee, both of which resulted in six fatalities.