That was the headline of a story in the Dallas Morning News today. This issue seems like such a no-brainer to me that I cannot comprehend how our legislators can manage to keep avoiding passing a law requiring seat belts on buses. How many deaths and injuries have to occur before someone takes action?
Excerpts of the article are below. The gist is that a U.S. Senate bill mandating seat belt installation may be stalled by a competing House bill that only requires further study into the issue. Of course bus companies are pouring money into the campaigns of any legislator who will agree to the House version rather than to the Senate version.
A Senate hearing today offers the last, best chance this year for a law requiring seat belts on charter buses.
But despite 40 years of debate and a string of grisly bus accidents like the one in Sherman last month that killed 17 Houston-area Catholics, the prospects for action on the bill are dim, and getting dimmer.
Congress is racing toward an election-year recess, with an already crowded calendar. Also in the bill’s way: strong opposition from the powerful lobby for bus operators, and a rival House bill that would require more study instead of mandating seat belts.
It was 1968 when the National Transportation Safety Board first recommended that seat belts be required on all buses. Decades of deaths – many occur as passengers are tossed about and ejected from cabins, suffering broken bones and internal injuries, as in the Sherman crash – have led to decades of study and discussion, but no law.
Last winter, U.S. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, introduced a bill to give safety proponents just what they wanted – a congressional end-run around the long-stalled seat-belt debate. They co-authored a bill calling for seat belts for passengers on new and old charter buses, and safety glass and stronger roofs on new buses.
Ms. Hutchison and Mr. Brown submitted their bill Nov. 8. On Nov. 20, a political action committee for the American Bus Association sent a check for $1,000 to U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa. By early December, Mr. Shuster had his rival Bluffton University Motorcoach Safety Act before a House committee. He received another $1,000 early this year from the same PAC, and $1,000 more in June from the United Motorcoach Association.
In all, the American Bus Association gave more than $40,000 in contributions in 2007-08.
Ms. Hutchison said she’s hoping Congress has seen enough bus accidents.
“We’re going to keep pushing,” she said. But she said the odds for passage are long. “It’s so hard, even to get a hearing on an issue like this,” she said. “And if we can’t, we’ll be ready to start all over again early next year.”