They started holding funerals over the weekend for those six little children killed last week in that Chattanooga school bus crash.
Police say the bus driver was speeding when he crashed on a narrow residential street. Driver Johnthony Walker faces multiple counts of vehicular homicide. According to The Chattanooga Times Free Press, parents and administrators previously had complained that the driver was speeding, driving recklessly and showing disregard for the children on his bus.
Walker, like a growing number of those who drive the nation’s school children, worked for a private contractor. He will be dealt with by the courts.
But the crash raises an interesting question: Why were there no seat belts on the bus?
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Safety Council recommend three-point seat/shoulder belts, similar to those in cars, on school buses. But federal regulators leave the matter up to the states. Only New York, California, Florida, New Jersey, Louisiana and Texas require them.
Five years ago, the U.S. Department of Transportation, which says school buses are the safest form of school transport in the country, opted not to pursue a propose rule that would have mandated three-point seat belts on school buses.
The agency said that such a federal mandate would have saved two lives a year – and that’s assuming 100 percent seat belt usage.
In a twist of cruel, sad irony, the DOT said that the added cost of installing seat belts on school buses – estimated at about $7,000-$10,000 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — could very well force local communities to reduce the number of school buses.
Such a reduction in available school buses would push students toward less safe modes of school transport – which could result in an additional 10 to 19 deaths a year, the DOT said.
All of that makes sense.
But I can’t imagine it providing even a shred of comfort to the families planning those funerals.