According to the Connecticut School Transportation Association (COSTA), two recently introduced pieces of legislation will do little to increase the safety of the state’s school bus riders.
The first piece of legislation would require school bus operators to display a Department of Motor Vehicles phone number on the rear and sides of all school buses for the public to report instances of unsafe or illegal driving. It would also increase fines for companies that ignore school bus safety lawsfrom the current fines of $100 to $500 for first-time offenders to $500 to $1,000 for subsequent offenses.
“We think it will create distraction to the drivers and put children at risk,” said COSTA Executive Director Bill Moore. “There’s a very easy way to identify a vehicle and a very easy way to report what someone might consider unsafe driving by a school bus driver — getting the license number and reporting it to local authorities.”
Moore said he believes the act of taking down the number could cause motorists to become distracted, creating unsafe situations for school buses and the students aboard. A few years ago, COSTA opposed a similar provision that would require school buses companies to display their names and phone numbers on the bus, but in the “11th hour,” the state assembly included it as part of a motor vehicle bill, which was made into law, according to Moore.
“If you muddy up the school bus with a lot of letters and a lot of verbiage that’s not necessary, pretty soon that yellow vehicle becomes almost invisible,” added Moore.
The state legislature is also pondering the mandatory inclusion of seat belts on its school buses. Moore, although opposing the measure, wants to make sure that if the bill passes, the seat belts come in the three-point variety only. He said COSTA will also work to ensure that drivers and carriers are exempt from liability should there be an accident, regardless of whether the child is or is not wearing the seat belt.
Currently, both bills are scheduled for hearings on Feb. 17.