Ohio governor to form task force to examine school bus safety

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Friday said he will put together a bus safety task force after a Northwestern Local Schools bus that crashed and killed one student and injured more than two dozen.

“We’re putting (it) together and we’ll announce in the next few days who’s on the task force, but a task force to look at bus safety,” he said Friday during a press conference in Clark County.

The Northwestern Local Schools bus crash happened Tuesday morning on Troy Road at Lawrenceville in Clark County. A 2010 Honda Odyssey went left of the center line into the path of the oncoming school bus, which flipped on its top before people on the scene pushed it onto its side and began helping the children.

DeWine said the task force will not only look at using seat belts, but will “take a holistic look” at bus safety.

“Maybe we can make it safer and that’s what we want to look at,” he said. “Seat belts are certainly one of the things that this task force will look at, but they’ll look at other things. They’ll see if we missed anything over the years (such as) patrol inspection, the buses, the bus driver,” he said.

DeWine said statistically, riding a school bus is safe — safer than being in a car and “virtually any other form of transportation.”

School buses are already among the safest vehicles on the road, with less than 1% of all traffic fatalities involving children on school transportation vehicles, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Nationally, there were 113 occupants killed in school transportation vehicles from 2012 to 2021, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Of those victims, 52 were drivers and 61 were passengers. Most (70%) of the people killed in school-transportation-related crashes were occupants of other vehicles involved in the crashes.

As far as a decision on school bus safety and seat belts, it will depend on the task force’s recommendation, DeWine said.

“For example, if you had a recommendation involve the highway patrol, we can probably do that and just implement that,” he said. “If a recommendation was seat belts, we’d have a significant cost, and I would need the help of state legislature on that.”

Only nine states require seat belts on school buses, and Ohio is not one of them. Many safety organizations, like the National Transportation Safety Board, and parent groups, like the Ohio and National PTA boards, recommend use of seat belts on school buses.

“I think everyone wants to do what’s right. Everyone wants our kids safer, even safer than they are,” he said. “I think that we need to look at this. We need to look at what the data says. We need to look at what other states have done. The majority of states still do not require seat belts, but some do, and we need to see what the data is.”

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