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Buses Buckle Up?

An unlucky Denton 11-year-old kicked off this school year in the hospital after suffering broken ribs and internal injuries when his school bus bounced over a pot hole, hurling him three rows forward. Would a seat belt have prevented his injuries?

While experts debate the merits of seat belts on school buses (with some arguing in favor of “compartmentalization,” which relies on closely spaced, impact-absorbing seats to contain and protect students), Texas legislators gave safety restraints the nod in June 2007 — one of the first states across the nation to do so. Beginning September 1, 2010, all new Texas school buses will be required to be equipped with three-point lap/shoulder belts.

The new requirements depend upon the legislature’s providing funding for the restraints, estimated at $580 million for 2011-2012. In November, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters proposed allowing school districts to use federal highway safety funds to outfit school buses with seat belts. The department will decide the proposal’s fate after a 60-day public comment period.

Like most other local districts, the Frisco Independent School District already uses seat belts on special needs buses and plans to begin ordering buses with seat belts when the law requires it, according to spokesperson Shana McKay-Wortham.