• Buckle Up! Texas Law Requires Three-Point Seat Belts on All Buses Contracted by School Districts to Transport Students
  • November 1, 2017 | Author: Scott Thomas
  • Law Firm: Eichelbaum Wardell Hansen Powell & Mehl, P.C. - Plano Office
  • In 2017, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 693 related to three-point seat belts on buses that transport schoolchildren. S.B. 693, 85th Leg., Reg. Sess. (Tex. 2017). Effective September 1, 2017, every bus operated by or contracted for use by a school district for the transportation of schoolchildren (included school-charted buses) shall be equipped with a three-point seat belt for each passenger, including the operator. Tex. Transp. Code Ann. § Senate Bill 693 (West 2017). According to the statute, a “bus” includes a school bus, school activity bus, multifunction school activity bus, or school-chartered bus. Id. The seat belt requirement does not apply to:

    (1) a bus purchased by a school district that is a model year 2017 or earlier; or

    (2) a bus purchased by a school district that is a model year 2018 or later if the board of trustees for the school district:

    (A) determines that the district’s budget does not permit the district to purchase a bus that is equipped with the seat belts required by this subsection; and

    (B) votes to approve that determination in a public meeting.

    Id.

    Although there have not yet been any court cases interpreting the new statute, based on the statute’s plain language, the new three-point seat belt requirements apply to all buses contracted for use by the district to transport schoolchildren (included school-charted buses). The exceptions that allow a district to not have three-point seat belts apply only to buses purchased by the district. Thus, whenever a district contracts with a company to transport students, the district may wish to include language in the contract that the company affirms that the buses it will use to transport the district’s students contain three-point seatbelts for all passengers and the driver in accordance with Texas Transportation Code section 547.701(e).

    S.B. 693 repealed the previous provision in Transportation Code section 547.701(f) that required districts to comply with the seat belt requirements only if the legislature appropriated money for districts to be reimbursed for equipping buses with seat belts. Now, every bus purchased by a school district that is a model 2018 later must be equipped with three-point seat belts unless the board votes that the district’s budget does not permit the district to purchase a bus equipped with the seat belts.

    Should you wish to possibly exempt your district’s bus purchase from including seat belts, we recommend that you contact your district’s attorney for advice on how to proceed.