By Maya Pinon
The federal role in improving school bus safety was the focus of a hearing last week by the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.
Representative Andrew McLean (D-Maine), House chair of Maine’s Joint Standing Committee on Transportation and co-chair of the Natural Resources and Infrastructure Committee for NCSL, testified on behalf of NCSL
During his testimony, McLean (pictured) presented three examples of what states are doing:
- Requiring seat belts in all school buses.
- Installing cameras on extendable stop sign arms to monitor cars that pass school buses illegally.
- Screening bus drivers more carefully for substance use and providing more training.
During questioning from members of the subcommittee, witnesses and members recalled statistics showing that students are most susceptible to danger while loading and unloading the bus rather than as a passenger.
Further, the subcommittee members and witnesses agreed that despite buses being the safest mode of transportation for students, even the small percentage of student deaths was still far too many lives lost. So, the subcommittee wondered what the federal government could do to avoid more student death and injury when loading and unloading.
Witnesses mentioned physical and technological additions to the bus, such as lap and shoulder seat belts and automated emergent braking. Members of Congress also considered the routes that school buses take so that students may avoid busy streets while loading and unloading and how to ensure that drivers are educated about the laws regarding driving school buses.
Most important, McLean recommended that Congress allow states to act according to their needs instead of imposing federal mandates. If the federal government wanted to provide assistance to states, McLean suggested that Congress use a carrot incentive approach as compared to a mandate stick.
Watch a video recording of the hearing.
Read McLean’s testimony on behalf of NCSL.
Maya Pinon is an intern in NCSL’s Washington, D.C., office.