COLUMBIA, Mo. - A school bus crashed and killed at least five students Monday afternoon in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the bus driver is being charged with reckless driving and five counts of vehicular homicide, according to Chattanooga police.
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's website says seat belts are not necessary on school buses because all school buses have a required restraint system called compartmentalization. That means that the padded, high-back, wide and thicker seats will protect students from bouncing around if the bus crashes.
The last time Missouri legislators tried to require school buses to have seat belts was in 2010. The bill was designed so a $15 surcharge would to be added to any moving-vehicle violation.
That money would have gone toward equipping schools with new buses that had seat belts. The bill would also require schools to purchase only buses with seat belts after Jan. 1, 2011. The bill did not pass.
The school bus in Chattanooga was part of the Durham School Services company. Some Missouri school districts use the same bus company, which are shown in the list below.
Dwight Sanders, the California School District superintendent, said he is not worried about any lack of safety on Durham School Services buses. He said the buses are inspected regularly by the district's head of transportation and the Missouri Highway Patrol.
Sanders said seat belts might not have prevented the deaths of the children in the Chattanooga school bus crash.
Debra Clink, head of transportation for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, agreed with Sanders. She said school buses are safe, and the only time people want to implement seat belts in them are when schools buses are involved in fatal accidents.
According to crash reports from the Missouri Highway Patrol, there have only been 497 crashes involving school buses in the state. Out of those crashes, 99 of them involved personal injuries. None were fatal.