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Clark-Pleasant district buys school buses with seat belts

Indiana school district installs seat belts in buses

WHITELAND, Ind. (WISH) – A state lawmaker wants seat belts required on all new school buses across the state.

Right now, they are only required for preschoolers.

A few school districts are already making changes.

“We need to do everything we can to keep the kids from getting hurt and be safe,” said Robert Downin, the transportation director for Clark-Pleasant Community Schools, on Tuesday.

Inside the Clark-Pleasant bus, there are three seat belts per seat, and every student is required to strap in.

Clark-Pleasant district buys school buses with seat belts

“Because there is no state law, so we made it school policy,” Downin said.

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It’s a policy Downin helped buckle into place back in 2016.

“I reckon I was the one that kind of pushed it because I really feel strongly about safety, always have,” Downin said.

Downin said two more school buses with seat belts will be in the district in a few weeks.

According to the 2016 Indiana crash facts report, data shows 747 collisions involving school buses that year; one of them was deadly.

Downin said the belts work, and he’s got proof.

“We’ve had accidents … minor ones … being run into, run off the road, that type of thing. We’ve looked at the film and if seat belts hadn’t been on that bus when that happened, it would throw them out into the aisle.” Downin said.

Downin said they’re one of only a handful of districts statewide with seat belts on buses.

The district has 16 buses with seat belts. They spend around $7,000 to install the seat belts. That works out to $89 per seat belt.

State Rep. John Bartlett, a Democrat from Indianapolis, said Tuesday, “We have to protect our babies.”

Bartlett has tried for at least the last 10 years to get a state law passed that would require seat belts on new Indiana school buses. “That’s the way to go because the claim is that it costs too much money. I don’t think it’s too much to save the life of a child.”

Bartlet said he will try again during the 2020 Legislative session.

“I will file a bill for as long as I’m there, until we get it done.” Bartlett said.