Texas

3-point seat belt law goes into effect as EPISD looks to buy dozens of buses

New seat belt state law

As of Sept. 1, any new school bus purchased by a Texas school district must have shoulder-to-lap seat belts for all riders.

"We know that this is something that has been important to our parents and our community," El Paso ISD spokesperson Melissa Martinez said.

According to Texas Tribune, the three-point seat belt law replaces a 2007 law that offered money to districts that opted to install seat belts in their school buses. Most districts opted out of the funding, which left most Texas school buses without belts.

"I think it will make the kids safer," one parents said. "If they have a seat belt on any other vehicle it only makes sense to have it on the bus," another said.

The measure in Texas requires that three-point seat belts be in schools buses that are model 2018 or late, including chartered by school districts and used for events and other functions, according to Texas Tribune. However, the measure does not require that older buses be retrofitted with the restraints, and districts that cannot afford seat belts can opt out of the requirement if they hold a public meeting with a vote.

The laws comes into effect at a time where the El Paso Independent School District is looking to purchase dozens of new buses. 

Voters approved the record $669 million bond in the November election, which included more than $8 million going to purchasing new buses. EPISD said they would buy 81 new buses with the bond money.

Martinez said one school bus without seat belts costs about $100,00; seat belts add an additional $10,000 to the cost.

The school district said this does not affect the amount of buses they have decided to purchase with the bond money.

Over the past four years, the school district has purchased 94 buses, which was part of the tax ratification several years ago. Those buses will not be equipped with seat belts, since they were purchased before the law went into affect.

"Our students will have the benefits of the additional safety measures with the seat belts," Martinez said. "Parents should rest assured with or without the seat belt a school bus is extremely safe, it is one of the safest ways your child can get to school."