SC lawmakers discuss if school buses need seat belts

Grand Strand

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW)- South Carolina lawmakers are discussing legislation on whether school buses need seat belts.

State Rep. Gary Clary, R-Pickens is pushing the bill that would require new school buses to be equipped with a three-point lap and shoulder seat belt.

Lawmakers including Horry County Rep. Tim McGinnis heard testimony regarding this bill. He said he’s not convinced it’s fixing a problem.

Rep. McGinnis has two kids who ride the bus every day and said while he’s all for safety he doesn’t necessarily think there’s an issue.

“I’ve read reports according to federal statistics you’re 70 percent more likely to get into an accident in a passenger vehicle than in a school bus,” said Rep McGinnis.

Mcginnis is concerned that if there is an accident, that students especially ones that need seat belt assistance may not be able to quickly evacuate.

The South Carolina Department of Education said they’ve had few deaths related to school bus crashes. The latest was in 2015 when the bus driver hit a tractor trailer killing a 4-year-old, who was wearing a seat belt.

The national transportation safety board released findings last year recommending large school buses be equipped with seat belts.

“They’re being built more and more with safety in mind. They’re already one of the most heavily regulated vehicles on the highways. They’re built to protect the cargo inside,” said McGinnis.

The bill will only require new school buses to get seat belts. Statewide, there are 400 school buses built in 1988.

The SC Department of Education said due to their replacement cycle 367 buses are supposed to be replaced every year, but that number doesn’t factor in growth in places like Horry County so they requested 70 more.

Replacing those buses is contingent on money from the general fund. The cost of seat belts is $6,000 per special needs buses and $15,000 per large school bus.

“I look at every issue we tackle up there is, is it good for my family, is it good for my business, is it good for my community? If it can pass two of those three I’m for it. This couldn’t do it,” said McGinnis.

Horry County schools said seat belts or safety seats are used in special needs buses if requested.
News 13 asked for the number of school bus accidents and the school district is currently working to get us that information.

As for the bill, many lawmakers in the education subcommittee had the same sentiment as Rep. McGinnis and likely won’t pass but may be taken up again next session. 

To read the proposed bill click here.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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