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Retired EMS worker argues for seat belts on Washington County school buses

A veteran Emergency Medical Service employee pleaded with the Washington County Board of Education during its Nov. 4 meeting to make it a policy to only purchase school buses that come equipped with seat belts.
Before taking his request to the Washington County Commission, James “Doc” Jones asked for school board members’ support for a policy that would require only buses containing safety belts and shoulder straps be bought as the county replaces its worn buses.
“I’ve never worked a school bus wreck where children weren’t hurt,” Jones said.
Though Jones said he has also never responded to a bus fatality, he said the theory that people do not need seat belts on a bus because the seats contain them more than normal vehicle seats is not valid.
“You’re still looking at 3,000 pounds of pressure when a 100-pound child hits the seat in front of him on a bus traveling 30 miles per hour,” Jones told the school board.
Chairman Phillip McLain said that while the board shares the concern for child safety, research from a three-year study in Alabama indicates money would be better spent on training for boarding, exiting and crossing in front of the buses because that’s when the accidents occur.
McLain said it would cost the county $1.8 million to refit the current buses with belt and shoulder straps.
“Then we would need someone to make sure the students actually put them on,” he said.
Later in the meeting, board members approved the purchase of two new school buses – at a cost of more than $150,000 – neither of which is equipped with seat belts.