Should seatbelts be required on school buses in New Mexico?

[anvplayer video=”5105981″ station=”998127″]

SANTA FE, N.M. – Should seatbelts be required on school buses in New Mexico? That’s the question state lawmakers are once again raising at the Roundhouse.

Lawmakers on the Legislative Education Study Committee received an update on school bus safety Friday afternoon.

In February, middle school students were sent flying when a suspected street racer crashed into the side of their school bus in Albuquerque. Two of them were seriously hurt.

In March, multiple high school students were hurt when a truck crashed into their school bus and flipped it over in Española.

The two crashes are renewing calls for seatbelts on school buses – something state lawmakers last considered during the 2019 legislative session.

“The department currently is neutral on the topic,” said Antonio Ortiz, the Public Education Department’s director of capital outlay. “There’s a lot of pros and cons and I think we’re here to talk about some of those and those decisions will ultimately have to be decided by the legislature.”

He talked about the pros and the cons of seatbelts on school buses.

“Some of the controversial issues with seatbelts is, are they safer on a rollover? Correct. Yes, they would be. Some of the controversial issues that you have to take a look at – if there’s a rollover and a bus catches fire you have 72 littles on a bus. Who’s going to get those kiddos out?” said Ortiz.

Royce Binns, executive director of transportation for Albuquerque Public Schools, told lawmakers he supports anything that makes school buses safer.

“I’m for the seatbelts,” he said. “I think any added security is greatly needed. We’ve put collision control on our buses. We have put on disc brakes on our buses. We have lane mitigation.”

State lawmakers on the committee were also supportive of the idea.

“I think we should at least get the new buses to be equipped with not only air-conditioning but also with the seatbelts,” said state Rep. Joanne Ferrary.

The debate will likely play out in the next legislative session.