Seatbelts on Buses in Coastal Bend


Coastal Bend Schools Address the Importance of Seatbelts on Buses

In the Coastal Bend area, school districts are taking a diverse approach to implementing seatbelts on school buses to transport students and staff. With a blend of buses equipped with and without seatbelts, the conversation about student safety and compliance with federal regulations is at the forefront of district agendas.

New Mandates and Adaptations of Seatbelts

The Alice Independent School District (ISD) has been proactive in adjusting to safety regulations, according to Transportation Director and Supervisor Daniel Lee Galvan. Last year, the district added ten new buses fitted with seatbelts to its fleet. This move aligns with directives from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which mandates that all new buses must include seatbelts. “We cannot buy buses anymore that do not have seatbelts,” Galvan emphasized, highlighting the shift towards enhanced safety measures.

Despite the enactment of Senate Bill 693, which mandates seatbelts on buses purchased post-2017, a caveat exists for older buses. The new legislation “grandfathers” these buses, exempting them from the requirement to retrofit seatbelts if they were operational before the bill’s enactment. “The new law grandfathers the older buses, exempting them from the need for seatbelts,” Galvan clarified.

District-Wide Responses and Safety Measures

Corpus Christi ISD’s approach to this issue sheds light on how districts manage their older fleets. Kyle Pelichet, the district’s Director of Transportation, shared that Corpus Christi ISD operates 16 buses lacking seatbelts, designated as spare buses for emergency use. Plans are underway to phase out these older models. “They’re older motor buses, and they’re scheduled to be auctioned off and replaced here over the next two years,” Pelichet said, indicating a move towards modernizing the fleet with safety as a priority.

The urgency around bus safety was heightened by a tragic accident in Bastrop County, prompting districts to reassess their transportation safety protocols. Corpus Christi ISD, like many others, is scrutinizing its policies to enhance student safety. “Safety is our number one priority, and we’re constantly looking at ways to make things safer for the transport of our students,” Pelichet added, echoing a sentiment prevalent across districts.

The Perspective from Behind the Wheel

For bus drivers like Rogelio De Leon, who has served Alice ISD for over 16 years, the addition of seatbelts is a significant step towards ensuring the safety of the children they transport daily. De Leon believes that seatbelts not only enhance safety but also provide peace of mind to parents. “My point of view is it will save a lot of lives in the school buses,” he stated, underscoring the vital role of seatbelts in protecting students.

Moving Forward

As Coastal Bend school districts navigate the evolving landscape of transportation safety, the implementation of seatbelts on school buses represents a critical component of their strategy to safeguard student travel. With a mix of new regulations and district-led initiatives, the focus remains firmly on enhancing the safety and security of students on their journey to and from school. As these efforts continue, the commitment to student safety by districts such as Alice ISD and Corpus Christi ISD serves as a model for others to follow, highlighting the importance of proactive measures in the face of evolving challenges.

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