Concerns of bus safety raised after Tuesday crash

Bus filled with 41 students collided with car

DUVAL COUNTY, Fla. – A bus carrying 41 students to Terry Parker High School Tuesday morning slammed into a car at Lamson Street and Galveston Avenue on Tuesday.

Four students were treated for minor injuries and are expected to be okay, but the accident has parents asking more questions about school bus safety.

Channel 4 has learned that Florida is only one of six states that have laws addressing seat belts on school buses.

"Studies have shown that if that school bus was to be involved in a crash, and it was to turn or roll or flip, then bodies are going to go everywhere," said Channel 4 crime analyst and safety expert, Ken Jefferson. "People are going to be on top of each other, when this can be avoided by being restrained in the seat by the seat belts."

Buckling up before hitting the road is something most people do without giving it much thought, but when it comes to riding a bus, buckling a seat belt is often the last thing on your child's mind. 

Every school bus in Duval County that was purchased after the year 2000 has seat belts. The law requires the belts, but it doesn't require children to actually wear them.

"We never wore seatbelts as kids on the school bus. I didn't know we had them," said parent, Kendra Elmore.

After watching the dramatic video of a bus filled with 41 kids careen into a car on it's way to Terry Parker High school, Elmore said she wants to make sure her kids are buckling up.

"I don't think it makes me not want to put them on a school bus, but it certainly makes me want to make sure they're informed and they know to put their seat belt on and be safe," said Elmore. "I'm definitely going to make sure that they know to buckle up, to be safe and what can happen if they don't."

Florida law states that any new bus purchased after 2000, used to transport students, "must be equipped with safety belts or any other restraint system." It also states that each passenger, "shall wear a properly adjusted and fastened safety belt at all times while the bus is in operation."

Jefferson recommends that every parent create a dialogue with their kids about riding the bus safely.

"They should teach them and train them to always buckle up, regardless of whether or not it's popular amongst other children. They should always buckle up and have them not succumb to the peer pressure that will come with that," said Jefferson.

Of the four school bus companies under contract with Duval County Public Schools, only two responded to Channel 4's request for information. Durham school services operates 189 routes in the county, all of those buses have seatbelts. 

Student transportation of America, the company involved in Tuesday morning's crash, runs 220 routes for the district and also said, "all of our buses have seat belts and drivers are instructed to tell the kids to wear them."