Statement of Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, September 6, 2019 School Bus Safety Act Press Conference
Good afternoon. I’m Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. Advocates is a unique coalition of consumer, public health and safety groups and insurance companies who have worked together for three decades to make vehicles, drivers and passengers, and roads safer for everyone. Thank you all for being here today, and thank you especially to Senator Duckworth for holding this important event. The Senator’s safety leadership has made her a champion for the millions of students who ride in school buses every day. Fortunately, most arrive safely at their destinations. However, devastating school bus crashes and fires have exposed critical safety vulnerabilities that need to be addressed. For example, in May of last year there was a deadly school bus crash during a field trip in New Jersey killing a student and a teacher and injuring 40 others. In November of 2016, a school bus crash in Chattanooga, Tennessee killed six students and injured 20 others, after the bus hit a mailbox, a utility pole, rolled onto its side and collided with a tree.
While school buses generally experience fewer crashes than other types of vehicles, basic safety features like seat belts are still not required. We must urgently address this major safety gap. The National Transportation Safety Board, our nation’s preeminent transportation investigators, has issued recommendations for comprehensive safety improvements and they are the building blocks for Senator Duckworth’s School Bus Safety Act of 2019 which we call upon Congress to pass with urgency as students all over the country have started the new school year.
One critical component of the bill requires 3 point seat belts on new school buses because crash tests show that unbelted riders are far more susceptible to catastrophic injury than those wearing a seat belt. Children know that when they get into cars, they need to buckle up. This lifesaving habit should continue when they board a school bus. In addition, the legislation includes vital technology upgrades such as automatic emergency braking, event data recorders and electronic stability control, as well as protections to mitigate risk from fires. Moreover, the bill provides grant assistance to schools to help make their buses safer.
Children are our most precious passengers and families rely on school buses to safely transport them to and from school. With each passing day, millions of children are being put at unnecessary risk. We urge Congress to advance the School Bus Safety Act immediately. Thank you.