The seat belts on school buses bill narrowly passed in the House Transportation Committee on Tuesday. The vote was 9-7.
There were calls from state lawmakers to hold onto the bill until next year, but the committee decided to move forward and give the proposal enough votes.
A bill in the Tennessee legislature would require seat belts on any new buses purchased or ordered after July of 2019. Some state lawmakers questioned whether children would be able to unbuckle in time if there was an emergency.
An official from the Tennessee Department of Safety said there are four to five bus fires a year. Most don’t have kids on board, but he told committee members there are far more crashes.
Since 2009, the official said crashes killed 10 children and 1 adult. Most were because of driver error.
After an hour of debate, the committee voted in favor of the proposal. State lawmakers mentioned to supporters the bill may have a tough time in the next committee, but they said they’re ready.
The proposal will cost around $15 million per year. That’s down from an estimated cost of $82 million per year when the bill required current buses to add seat belts by 2023. The cost will be shared between the state and local school systems.
The bill will be heard next in the House Education, Administration, and Planning Committee.The Senate will take up its version of the proposal on Wednesday.