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Our View: Seat belts on school buses?

There is a proposal in the state to equip new school buses in Wisconsin with safety belts. The proposal was brought forward by State Sen. Tim Cullen, a Democrat from Janesville.

On the surface it sounds like a great idea -- what parent would object to having their child in a seat belt while riding the bus? The problem, however, is not necessarily equipping buses, but in enforcing the rules.

Cullen was a member of the Janesville School Board when that district, three years ago, became the only one in the state to install seat belts in school buses. No one is probably going to oppose adding seat belts to school buses (the cost is an estimated $10,000 per bus).

The hitch is this: the Janesville Gazette recently reported that students don't necessarily wear their belts.

It would be too much to expect a school bus driver to monitor the use of seat belts. They already have their hands full with numerous other concerns. What it boils down to is this: The use of seat belts would probably essentially be voluntary compliance. The only other option would be adding another adult on the bus to police the seat belt use.

Next week is national Child Passenger Safety Week and the issue of restraints on school buses is worth discussing. As far as the bus industry and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration say, bus travel is much safer that other modes of transportation.

Those groups contend that buses ride higher than other traffic. They claim students are protected by the padded, tightly spaced seats.

It's always easy to pass laws; enforcement in this case would be a challenge. The best hope would be that students, using seatbelts in their family vehicles, would understand the importance of buckling up.

Cullen calls it "completely outrageous" that most students ride to and from school on buses without restraints.

At any rate, discussion of this proposal could be in the news in the days and weeks ahead. We'll see if it has legs.