NTSB backs push for seat belts on school buses in Nebraska

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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - For the first time, a Nebraska mother has a powerful ally in her longtime battle to get seat belts in school buses, and many are wondering whether this is the year Nebraska will put that law into place.

For years, lawmakers have rejected the idea; but this year, the National Transportation Safety Board — one of the nation’s chief safety regulators — is urging states to equip new buses with seat belts.

In 2001, the Seward band school bus crashed into a guardrail on Dodge and plunged to the creek below. One adult and three children died.

Dawn Prescott has been going before the legislature for years. Her pain of losing her son, Benjamin, in a school bus crash motivates her.

"After the impact, all I could think about was getting to the front of the bus for my son," she said. "When I got to Benjamin, he was motionless on top of a friend. As I carried him out, and tried CPR, my son was gone."

Benjamin was 14. Two other students and a chaperone also died in the crash.

“A couple years ago, the head of the NTSB said, ‘We're going to leave it up to the states. But if we don't see action, we’ll consider a mandate,’” Prescott said. “Nebraska needs to do the right thing, finally.”

Opponents have argued that school buses are already built to be safe without seat belts, saying the close seats built to absorb the energy of a crash.

School districts have often argued about the cost related to putting seat belts in school buses.

This bill is a bit different from the past as it would only apply to new buses purchased by a school — they wouldn't have to retrofit the old buses.

Right now, six states require seat belts on school buses.

Read the original version of this article at www.ksnblocal4.com.