The School Committee is contemplating adding seat belts to school buses following a parent request.
“We’re asking for the ability to give our kids the best protection possible,” said parent Jennifer Muldoon at last week’s School Committee meeting.
Another parent named Lisa told the committee about her daughter suffering a traumatic brain injury five years ago as a fifth-grader due to a school bus accident that occurred in another town.
“It was a very significant, traumatic brain injury that she’s still struggling with,” the parent said. “As a matter of fact we were just informed it’s a permanent brain injury and she will never recover from it. The impact of that is she’s still not able five years later to attend school full-time. She’s currently four hours a day.
“She struggles every day with a variety of symptoms, and it took one second. The driver slammed on the brakes because he was going to miss a stop and because she wasn’t constrained properly, she suffered an injury that has now impacted the rest of her life.
“I know that it’s easy to look at numbers,” the parent continued. “The bottom line is the safety of our kids.”
The parent said she has been concerned seeing Weston schoolchildren sometimes not seated when buses take off from a stop.
“The buses often leave in front of the school, in front of our homes, and the children are not seated. Just that jolting of the buses starting, they can lose their balance, and that’s all it takes,” she said. “At the very least, I think seat belts are really important.”
School Committee member Alex Cobb, who has been in support of putting cameras on the school buses, suggested adding seat belts on a trial basis to a couple of new buses, “if we could find a belt system that we’re comfortable with.”
“Setting aside the money of doing it, it’s more the logistics of getting these belts into all of our buses is a big step, particularly when we own our buses,” Cobb said.
“I’m interested in finding a district or two that has installed these types of seats,” he added, “and get an understanding of what are we missing, what are the obvious things we should address, what would they do differently if they went back and redid it. Because the fact that we own our buses just makes our choices a lot more permanent, so if we’re going to do it, we should do it right.”
School Committee member John Henry also mentioned the idea of putting cameras outside of the buses to capture motorists who are not stopping when children get out at their stops.
Muldoon estimated the cost of adding seat belts at $5,000 to $10,000 per bus if no major retrofitting of the bus is needed.
“We’re talking about a very limited amount of money per bus to provide some safety that we don’t currently have,” she said.