Can School Buses Be Made Safer?

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BLAKELY -- The deadly school bus crash in Tennessee has drivers and parents in our area thinking safety, in particular, whether there's more that can be done to protect children if a bus wrecks.

Student safety on the bus is always a top priority for bus companies but especially after the deadly crash in Tennessee.

Students headed home after a day at Valley View Elementary School in Blakely. Their first stop: that big yellow bus and behind the wheel, the man or woman entrusted with their safety the whole way home.

"It's a part-time position because of the hours, but it's a full-time responsibility," said John Schwartztrauber.

Schwartztrauber has been driving school buses for decades and saw the deadly school bus crash in Tennessee. He and other drivers believe the responsibility to keep those young passengers safe ultimately lies with the person behind the wheel.

"School buses don't crash themselves, has to be an operator failure," Schwartztrauber said. "You can't be distracted, you have to be focused."

"You're carrying the most precious cargo in the world, got to keep sight of that all the time," said driver Don Jones.

The PSBA still maintains a school bus where students aren't belted in is still the safest place for them to be on way to school. That's versus walking, biking, or getting a ride with parents.

"If anything happened to my kids, I'd be devastated. Those poor parents, I feel terrible for them," said Terry Bennie.

There's no indication if seat belts on the bus would have saved those children's lives in Tennessee, but some parents think it only makes sense.

"No reason they shouldn't need seat belts," said Bennie. "I'm required with seats in the car, why shouldn't it be required on a bus?"

"Is it going to be beneficial in the long run or isn't?" asked Lois Vedra. "I'm for any measure that will keep them safe."

The school bus industry thinks seat belts aren't any safer because students may not always use them properly, and if there's an emergency, children might get trapped by their belts.