Ala. Opens Hearing on School Bus Safety

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) - A hearing on whether to require seat
belts on Alabama school buses began Monday near the spot where four high school students died when a bus plunged off an elevated
highway in November.

The two-day meeting is being conducted by a task force formed by Governor Bob Riley to consider school bus safety in the wake of the
crash, which injured three dozen students.

Alabama law requires school bus drivers to wear seat belts, but the law doesn't apply to students and buses typically lack such safety equipment.

Doctor Stephan Moran, a trauma surgeon at Huntsville Hospital, said students are far safer on school buses than in cars or walking to schools. He said installing restraints on old buses not designed for seat belts would put children at greater risk than having no seat belts at all.

Industry specialist Robin Leeds, who represents National School Transportation Association, said the only way to improve bus safety
with seat belts is by requiring lap belts with shoulder harnesses and then training and monitoring students to make sure they are strapped in properly.

A bus carrying 40 students from Lee High School nose-dived off an elevated ramp from Interstate 565 on November 20th, slamming into the ground 30 feet below.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)