School Bus Safety Pilot to Kick Off Soon

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National statistics show 24 million children ride on school buses each year, making almost nine billion trips in that same time span.

And, with recent bus accidents like the one in Arkansas and Georgia, many are thankful for a pilot program that will soon be rolling into the Wiregrass.

The doors may be opening new opportunities to children’s safety on school buses, giving Dothan City School bus drivers like Terry Tillery mixed feelings. "Seatbelts, no, that probably wouldn't be a good idea, but camera's are."

The Department of Education will soon be putting a pilot program into action, equipping 12 buses in the state of Alabama with seatbelts, cameras and six out of the 12 buses with aids.

Tillery says she's not sure having seatbelts on the buses is the best route to take, having experience with an accident involving a dump truck with her students.

"One little boy was sitting wherever it hit,” Tillery explains “If he would have had his seatbelt on, it would have hurt him a lot worse."

Ron Evans feels differently and says he thinks the seatbelts are a step to keeping his loved ones safe. "There was more concern of the safety of my grandchildren and I would probably favor the addition of seatbelts."

Superintendent of Dothan City Schools Dr. Sam Nichols agrees and thinks the pilot is a key way to measure the amount of safety needed to be taken with students.

"I think you know, by the end of the study we'll have good information about whether the seatbelts need to be on school buses," Nichols said.

The new buses will each be equipped with four cameras.

Each week, the footage will be sent to the University of Alabama to study areas that may need improving.

"They'll gather this information and compile data about students staying in their seats, how they move about in the bus and so that's the focus of the study," Nichols concluded.

Tillery says no matter what the outcome is in the future, she hopes the best decision is made for the safety of the students and drivers

Nichols says a letter will be sent out to parents after spring break is over, informing them of the pilot as well as speaking with all students and parents if they have any concerns.

Officials are hoping the seatbelt equipped bus will be here by the end of March and hope to get things rolling as soon as possible.

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