An Indianapolis family is appealing to the state to institute a law requiring all school buses to have seat belts for each passenger, following last month’s fatal school bus crash that killed 2 people, including a 5 year old girl.
The tragic accident occurred when a Lighthouse Charter school bus smashed into the pillar of a railroad bridge. Two people died instantly in the crash, including the bus driver Thomas Spencer, and a Donasty Smith, a 5 year old girl. Several other children were thrown out of the bus and were injured. Michael Watkins, an 8 year old attending the same school as Donasty, was one of the children who was injured.
Watkins’ family last week filed a lawsuit against the state of Indiana, claiming that their son’s injuries were caused by a lack of seat belts on the bus. After the bus smashed into the concrete railroad bridge pillar, Michael Watkins was thrown out of his seat and into the front part of the bus. He sustained serious injuries including a fractured femur, and had to have orthopedic surgery and a metal road and screws inserted into his leg to correct the damage.
Michael’s mother Natasha stresses the importance of having seat belts on buses – “I don’t put them in my car and not buckle them up or use child safety. So I feel the same should go on our school buses.” Natasha’s attorney believes that it is common sense for school buses to be required to have seat belts, as all other cars and passenger vehicles in the state must be equipped with seat belts.
Currently, only six states in the United States mandate seat belts on buses. However, the topic is a controversial one, and not everyone is convinced that seat belts are the answer to saving lives caused by bus accidents. Officials with the National Association for Pupil Transportation claim that there is no evidence that seat belts will prevent injuries occurring in roll-over accidents and side-impact accidents, and very little crash testing has been done on buses in general. Without evidence of benefit, it is difficult to make a case against the state to make seat belts on buses mandatory.
The mother of Donasty Williams who was killed in the accident has also filed a lawsuit, against the bus company running the school bus, Miller Transportation. According to Williams’ attorney, Donasty’s death occurred as a result of negligence on the part of the bus company, for not ensuring that the children were adequately secured. Williams’ family is also calling for seat belts on school buses across the country.