Educators awaiting results of school seat belt study

Posted by Cody Holyoke - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - State educators know the risks when transporting children.

Everything from minor accidents to the unthinkable--like the 2006 crash that killed four teenaged girls in Huntsville.

"That Huntsville crash.. We're still living with that tragedy. It's very difficult," explained Joe Lightsey, Alabama State Board of Education.

Years ago, that tragedy sparked action. Governor Bob Riley and state lawmakers set out to increase safety with seat belts, starting a three year test study with 12 belted busses in ten counties.

"We're trying to determine buckle up rates.  We're trying to do comparisons between elementary schools, high schools, and middle schools, to see if there's a difference there," Lightsey said.

The study is almost over.  The hardest part so far, according to Lightsey, is getting kids to buckle up.

"We are finding that the buckle up rates aren't as high as we'd like them to be, because if a lap shoulder belt isn't buckled, it doesn't do anybody any good," Lightsey explained.

Parents say they'd love to see the change.

"I think it should be mandatory.  For safety.  The safety of the kids.  When I put [my daughter] in her car seat, the first thing I do is buckle her in," said LaSonya Smith of Montgomery.

"If you're in any motor vehicle and you're in an accident without a seat belt, you're more at risk," said Dana Berrey of Grady.

Either way, educators say kids are in good hands.

"The safety equipment, the fuel integrity, the fuel system, and the drivers, too, make Alabama's busses extremely safe," Lightsey explained.

With the changes, they'd also be extremely expensive.  Adding the necessary belts and equipment adds another $10,000 per bus.

The University of Alabama is in charge of the seat belt study.  They'll present their findings to the Governor at the end of the summer.

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