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School Bus Crash With Alleged Drunken Driver Raises Questions About Seat-Belt Law

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SOMERSET (CBS13) — An accident involving an alleged drunk driver and a school bus full of students has prompted concerns about students not wearing seat belts.

The crash happened Thursday morning along Grizzly Flat Road in Somerset where, investigators say, the driver crashed head-on into the bus after crossing into the other lane of traffic.

Two students were taken to the hospital with minor injuries, and officers arrested the driver.

“It is a violent collision but we were lucky in this particular case that no one was seriously injured,” said California Highway Patrol officer Dan Stark.

Only half of the buses in a school lot we visited come equipped with a seat belt. But even if they all did, most children don’t use them.

“If it hadn’t been for the actions of that school bus driver this could have easily been a much more serious collision possibly ending in fatalities,” said CHP officer Quinn Cuthbertson.

Defensive driving may have reduced the number of injuries in the crash, but some moms believe that wearing seat belts should be a requirement.

“If the bus was to crash there isn’t enough safety bars or anything like that,” said mother Michelle Davis.

California law states all buses built since 2005 must have a shoulder and lap belt, but neither the school or the driver is legally responsible if the child doesn’t wear it.

“It is up to the passenger on board that bus whether they wear that safety belt or not,” Cuthbertson said.

Lawmakers pushed hard for the law a decade ago, but there are still many older buses that remain on roadways without seat belts.

California is one of only six states with a school bus seat belt mandate. Due to a low death rate, most efforts for seat belt laws have failed. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 19 children nationwide die each year in bus-related accidents. But most of those happen once the child gets off the bus.

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