Senator Lucio's Letterhead

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, Jan. 28, 2009
CONTACT: Doris Sanchez, Communications Director
Phone: 512-463-0385

SENATOR LUCIO REMINDS PUBLIC OF NEED FOR SCHOOL BUS SEAT BELT LAW

GRATEFUL NO SERIOUS INJURIES FROM SCHOOL BUS ACCIDENT IN LOS FRESNOS CISD

AUSTIN, TX — Though relieved that the children involved in the Los Fresnos CISD elementary school bus accident yesterday were not seriously hurt, Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. emphasized the critical need for the law that now requires lap and shoulder seat belts for new school buses.

"I am so thankful that none of the children involved in this accident was seriously injured and wish each one a speedy recovery," said Sen. Lucio. "It is incumbent upon the state of Texas to ensure that the safety of our children in public school buses is the highest priority, and that is the reason I passed legislation in 2007 requiring three-point safety seat belts in all new school buses purchased on or after Sept. 1, 2010."

The bill, named Ashley and Alicia's Law, was partly in response to an accident occurring March 29, 2006, in which a chartered bus carrying 23 soccer players from West Brook High School in Beaumont was involved in an accident en route to a playoff game. The bus overturned and two players—Ashley Brown and Alicia Bonura—were killed and others severely injured. Despite their grief, parents of the students actively campaigned for change. Their advocacy led to Beaumont I.S.D. becoming the first Texas school district to require all new buses to be equipped with seat belts and to passage of the legislation.

"It makes no sense and sends a mixed message to children when school buses are the only type of transportation where children do not have to buckle up," said Sen. Lucio. "School buses involved in side impacts toss children around like rag dolls."

Although built safely, current technology of school buses is 30 years old. They are designed for frontal impacts, and not for accidents involving side impact or rollover collisions. With nothing restraining students in their seats, they can be thrown around the inside of the bus, collide with hard surfaces, or ejected from the bus.

"Since 2002, new technology lap-shoulder belt restraint seating for school buses has been available from several manufacturers at a reasonable price. To install lap-shoulder three-point restraint seat systems on a new bus, it costs from $7,000 to $10,000. That's less than 10 percent of the total cost of a new bus," explained Sen. Lucio. "It's about two to three cents per student rider per day. Compare this to the staggering cost of even one accident."

The cost of fitting new buses with three-point safety belts will be paid by the state and private donors. An appropriation of $10 million during the 81st Legislative Session will fund safety belts for the average number of new school buses typically purchased every year.

"My heart goes out to the families of the students involved in this accident who must be so worried," added Sen. Lucio. "We should minimize the worry for parents who entrust their children to our schools."

Note: Chief of Staff Ian Randolph handles this issue for Sen. Lucio and can be reached at 512-463-0127.

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