Last year, the tragic death of a student in a school bus accident prompted California legislators to take action. Late last month, according to a recent article in the Whittier Daily News, a 19-year-old autistic teenager was left unattended in the back of a bus on a particularly warm day. At that time, no protocols were in place to require school bus drivers to check individual seats to ensure that no children were present on the bus. At the same time, school buses were not required to have alarms to help ensure that no kids are left unattended on hot school buses. Given the frequent high temperatures in Southern California, it is extremely important to have standards in place to ensure that children are safe when they take the bus to school or to school-related activities.
Now, as the article explains, Senator Tony Mendoza’s proposed legislation, S.B. 1072, passed the California State Senate unanimously at the end of last month, and now the bill is just waiting for a signature from Governor Jerry Brown.
School Bus Safety for Students
Senator Mendoza proposed S.B. 1072, as we mentioned above, in response to the death of an autistic student who, according to an article in School Transportation News, was “left behind on a school bus during a Southern California heat wave last September.” If the bill becomes law by September 30, 2016, its requirements will need to be implemented by the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year.
The primary feature of S.B. 1072 is to require the installation of child alarm systems in California school buses. As the proposed legislation explains, current California law requires schools “to prepare a transportation safety plan containing procedures for school personnel to follow to ensure the safe transport of pupils.” The bill would require additional safety mechanisms to ensure that students reach their destinations safely whenever they ride school buses in the state. Specifically, the bill would require schools to institute “procedures to ensure that a pupil is not left unattended on a school bus, school pupil activity bus, or youth bus.”
Details of S.B. 1072 and Newly Proposed Requirements
When the bill says it would require the institution of safety procedures to ensure that kids are not left unattended on school buses, what precisely does it mean? The proposed legislation also stipulates that it would require some of the following:
- Training or instruction for school bus drivers that would include “inspection procedures” for making sure that no children are left unattended on the school bus;
- Notification to the California Department of Motor Vehicles when a school bus driver has left a student unattended on the bus; and
- Installation of new safety equipment on school buses, specifically a “child safety alarm system” to ensure that kids do not remain on the bus once it is parked.
What is the “child safety alarm system”? As the language of the proposed legislation clarifies, it is “a device located at the interior rear of a vehicle that requires the driver to manually contact the device before exiting the vehicle, thereby prompting the driver to inspect the entirety of the interior of the vehicle before exiting.”
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