The death of a Rocky Hill boy in a school bus crash this weekend has lawmakers talking about whether to require seatbelts on school buses. WNPR's Lucy Nalpathanchil reports
Sixteen-year-old Vikas Parikh died and more than a dozen others were injured when the school bus they were on collided with a car and plummeted 20 feet down an embankment off Interstate 84 in Hartford on Saturday.
Co-chairmen of the legislature's Transportation Committee, Senator Donald DeFronzo and Representative Anthony Guerrera say they plan to submit seat belt legislation when the session begins next month.
But Dr. Alan Ross, President of the National Coalition for School Bus Safety, says similar legislation hasn't passed in previous years because of strong lobbying by the bus industry.
"Well the industry will tell you that the seat backs are padded, and they call that compartmentalization. The padding is not a bad thing, but it's not enough. When a bus goes down an embankment, the padding on the back of the seat is not gonna hold a child in place and prevent them from becoming a projectile or a missile. You need a shoulder harness belt."
Currently, federal law requires seatbelts on small busses. Ross says adding seatbelts to older buses can cost thousands of dollars:
"Many, many busses out there would have to be retrofitted, and a retrofit can cost as much as twenty or thirty thousand dollars. The reason for that is these busses are so flimsy in their construction, that the floors, the anchorages, the walls, all have to be reinforced and reengineered to support the safety belts."
In contrast, Dr. Ross says adding seatbelts to new school buses can cost about $4,000. Currently, six states require seatbelts in school buses.
For WNPR, I'm Lucy Nalpathanchil.