Ptacek offers thoughts on legislation regarding seat belts on school buses

By Blake Schnitker on March 17 at 7:58am

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced his support of legislation that would require seat belts on Illinois school buses.

House Bill 3377, sponsored by Representative Lou Lang of Skokie, would require all school buses in the state to have three-point seat belts. The bill moved to the House of Representative last Wednesday.

WLDS-WEAI News caught up with Jacksonville School District 117 Superintendent Steve Ptacek to ask his thoughts on the legislation. Ptacek says while the bill has yet to pass the House, it would mean substantial changes for district busing.

“You’re talking about retrofitting the buses, if that were part of the bill, is anywhere from $17,000 to $18,000 per bus. You’re also talking, with a three-point system, going from three kids sitting on a seat to two kids sitting on a seat, so more buses. Plus potentially staff having to be placed on the bus to help kids get in and out of their restraints,” says Ptacek.

Ptacek says he understands the idea of wanting to make buses safer, but he still thinks there are more factors to consider.

“I understand that it’s just the easy answer to say, ‘well, it’s safety for kids and that’s what should happen,’ but there’s not any data to show that with the thousands of kids that are on buses everyday for years and years and years, that there’s a realistic threat at this time. Also, one of the superintendents from somewhere else in the state, they had a bus fire and kids had to evacuate off, and they brought up the concern about having kids in three-point harnesses, that they might not be able to get out of the buses during a bus fire,” Ptacek explains.

Ptacek hopes state politicians take into consideration how the bill would actually affect school districts as well as student safety.

“I think it’s right now a knee-jerk reaction for politicians to say ‘I can’t say no to this because it’s about kids’ safety,’ when honestly, they need to put it into perspective of how much this is going to cost districts, how much would we have to cut in services to allow this to happen, and is it necessarily increasing student safety,” explains Ptacek.

If the bill were to pass, Illinois would become the sixth state in the country to require seat belts on school buses.