The recent school bus crash in Tennessee prompts questions highlighting bus driver training and the requirement of safety belts. While safety belt requirements are different in every state, in Arizona, school districts are not required to provide safety belts in school buses.
Director of Transportation for the Yuma School District, Ron Schepers, says, "Some of the discussion that happen with that, is the seat belts, as far as the downside of seat belts would go is that if a school bus caught on fire or got into water or a river some place, being able to evacuate all the kids in a hurry could be problematic if you have seat belts in buses."
He adds, "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has developed compartmentalization in school buses where they have padded seats, with certain distance between the seats, they still determine it's the best, most appropriate way to have students ride safely in buses."
To equip one school bus with 3-point lap belts it would cost about $10,000-$15,000, averaging over $1 million to install safety belts for the 160 buses in Yuma county.
The only buses that are equipped with safety belts are for the buses that transport children with disabilities.
"Our bus drivers are trained to be able to deal with any aged student and actually we transport students as early as three years old on some of our preschool buses and preschool programs and some severely handicapped students as well," Schepers says,"All of our special needs buses also have monitors on them as a second person to help with those highly needs student we transport as well as all of our drivers receive the training to deal with any age student."
In regards to bus drivers background and how safe children are in their custody, Schepers says, "All applicants for a bus driver go through a background check. An FBI background check. A records check for their whole life, if there's anything on there that's disqualifying then they just don't become bus drivers."
He adds, "Arizona has really strict regulations about training. There's 14 hours of classroom training that a driver has to go through. there's different tests and requirements that have to do through the department of licensing to get their CDL. There's like 20 hours of on road training that drivers have to go through and complete tests to get their authorization and certification through the Department of Public Safety in Arizona."