School Buses; Seat Belts

Requires public and private elementary school children to wear
seat belts on school buses.  Requires all state contracted school
buses to be fitted with seat belts after 1/1/99.  Appropriates

THE SENATE                              S.B. NO.           165
TWENTIETH LEGISLATURE, 1999                                
STATE OF HAWAII                                            

                   A  BILL  FOR  AN  ACT


 1      SECTION 1.  The legislature finds that seat belts provide an
 2 additional measure of safety in motor vehicle accidents.
 3 However, while Hawaii law requires drivers and front seat
 4 passengers to buckle up their seat belts for their safety, most
 5 children transported by school buses in this State do not have
 6 that option, since seat belts are not available.
 7      An extensive study of school bus collisions conducted at
 8 UCLA thirty years ago found that lap-type safety belts would
 9 provide substantial protection to school bus passengers when
10 seated in high seat backs that had efficient padding on the rear
11 panels of its backrests.  Despite these recommendations for seat
12 belts on all school buses, however, relatively few school
13 districts have provided seat belts on school buses, largely due
14 to financial constraints.
15      While bus safety has improved since the adoption of the 1977
16 federal standards of twenty-four-inch high padded seats and
17 improved bus structures, thousands of injuries to kids occur each
18 year.  While opponents of seat belts on buses often cite low
19 injury statistics from a 1989 study by the Transportation
20 Research Board of the National Research Council, these figures do

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 1 not usually include field trips or private schools.
 2      Most bus fatalities occur in rollovers, in which a lap belt
 3 is the most effective in curbing injuries.  Moreover, an
 4 overturned busload of children cannot be evacuated quickly.
 5 Students suffer both minor and serious injuries to their head,
 6 neck, back, and stomach when striking the roof, windows, seat
 7 backs, and other students in crashes.  A single collision
 8 involving students with multiple injuries and fatalities is
 9 frequently more than local emergency services can handle.
10      In addition to safety, seat belts provide another important
11 benefit, namely, educating children as to their use and
12 acclimating them to that use.  We are teaching our children a
13 contradiction:  if seat belts are so important, why are they
14 missing from school buses?  Many safety advocates argue that
15 children should grow up with the habit of buckling their seat
16 belts whenever riding in any motor vehicle.  Reinforcing that
17 habit on school buses will ensure greater safety consciousness
18 elsewhere, especially in automobiles.
19      Many injuries could be avoided if children were required to
20 wear lap belts on school buses.  While current federal safety
21 standards do not require a school bus having a gross vehicle
22 weight rating of more than ten thousand pounds to be equipped
23 with passenger safety belts, states or political subdivisions

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 1 such as school districts that procure school buses for their own
 2 use may require and equip their buses to meet a higher safety
 3 standard than that established under federal law.  Currently,
 4 seat belts in large school buses are required by law in three
 5 states and fifty-one school districts in thirteen other states.
 6      The purpose of this Act is therefore to require public and
 7 private elementary school children to wear seat belts on school
 8 buses, and to require all state contracted school buses to be
 9 fitted with seat belts after January 1, 2000.
10      SECTION 2.  Chapter 103D, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is
11 amended by adding a new section to be appropriately designated
12 and to read as follows:
13      "103D-    Procurement of school bus vehicles; seat belts.
14 All school buses purchased by the State after January 1, 2000,
15 shall be fitted with seat belt assemblies as defined in section
16 291-11.6(a)."
17      SECTION 3.  Chapter 302A, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is
18 amended by adding a new section to part II, subpart C, to be
19 appropriately designated and to read as follows:
20      "302A-     Seat belts required on school buses; civil
21 penalty.  (a)  The term "seat belt assembly" has the same meaning
22 as provided in section 291-11.6(a).
23      (b)  After December 31, 1999, every school bus used to carry

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 1 public or private elementary school students upon any public
 2 highway shall be equipped with seat belt assemblies for all
 3 passenger seats.  Every public or private elementary school
 4 student on any such bus shall wear a properly adjusted and
 5 fastened seat belt assembly while the school bus is in motion.
 6 The operator of any such school bus shall require each school bus
 7 passenger to comply with this section.
 8      (c)  Any person who is found responsible for a civil
 9 violation under this section shall be subject to a civil penalty
10 of not more than $       for each violation.
11      (d)  A police officer shall not stop or issue a citation to
12 a person operating a school bus on a public highway for a
13 violation of this section unless the officer has reasonable cause
14 to believe that there is another alleged violation of a motor
15 vehicle law of this State.
16      (e)  If the driver of any such school bus is found
17 responsible for a civil violation under this section, no state or
18 county department or agency may consider the violation for the
19 purpose of determining whether the person's driver's license
20 should be suspended or revoked.
21      (f)  An insurer shall not consider a civil violation under
22 this section as a traffic violation against the person for the
23 purposes of establishing rates for motor vehicle liability

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 1 insurance or determining the insurability of the person.  An
 2 insurer shall not cancel or refuse to renew any policy of
 3 insurance for such a violation.
 4      (g)  This section shall not apply to a child who possesses a
 5 written statement from a physician licensed to practice in this
 6 State that the child is unable for medical or psychological
 7 reasons to wear a seat belt."
 8      SECTION 4.  Section 291-11.6, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is
 9 amended by amending subsections (a) and (b) to read as follows:
10      "(a)  Except as otherwise provided by law, no person:
11      (1)  Shall operate a motor vehicle upon any public highway
12           unless the person is restrained by a seat belt assembly
13           and any passengers in the front seat of the motor
14           vehicle are restrained by a seat belt assembly if
15           between the ages of four and fifteen or are restrained
16           pursuant to section 291-11.5 if under the age of four;
17      (2)  If fifteen years of age or more shall be a passenger in
18           the front seat of a motor vehicle being operated upon
19           any public highway unless such person is restrained by
20           a seat belt assembly[.]; or
21      (3)  Shall operate a school bus carrying public or private
22           elementary school students upon any public highway
23           unless those students are restrained by a seat belt

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 1           assembly pursuant to section 302A-   .
 2      As used in this section "seat belt assembly" means the seat
 3 belt assembly required to be in the motor vehicle under any
 4 federal motor vehicle safety standard issued pursuant to Public
 5 Law 89-563, the [federal] National Traffic and Motor Vehicle
 6 Safety Act of 1966, as amended, unless original replacement seat
 7 belt assemblies are not readily available.  If replacement
 8 assemblies are not readily available, seat belts of federally-
 9 approved materials with similar protective characteristics may be
10 used.  Such replacement seat belt assemblies shall be permanently
11 marked by the belt manufacturer indicating compliance with all
12 applicable federal standards.
13      (b)  The passengers of the following motor vehicles shall be
14 exempt from the requirements of this section:  emergency and mass
15 transit vehicles.  Further exemptions from this section may be
16 established by rules adopted by the department of transportation
17 pursuant to chapter 91.
18      As used in this section, unless the context otherwise
19 requires:
20      "Emergency vehicle" means an ambulance, a firefighting or
21 rescue vehicle, or a police vehicle while on duty.
22      "Mass transit vehicle" means a bus, [including a school bus]
23 (but excluding a school bus, charter bus, or sightseeing service

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 1 bus) with a gross vehicle weight rating that is over [10,000] ten
 2 thousand pounds, whether publicly or privately owned, [which]
 3 that provides service to the general public or provides special
 4 service on a regular or continuing basis."
 5      SECTION 5.  Section 302A-406, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is
 6 amended by amending subsection (a) to read as follows:
 7      "(a)  The department may provide suitable transportation to
 8 and from school and for educational field trips for all children
 9 in grades kindergarten to twelve and in special education
10 classes[.]; provided that no school bus may carry public or
11 private elementary school students upon any public highway unless
12 those students are restrained by a seat belt assembly pursuant to
13 section 302A-   .  The department shall adopt such policy,
14 procedure, and program as it deems necessary to provide suitable
15 transportation.  In formulating the policy, procedure, and
16 program, the department shall consider [the]:
17      (1)  The school district; [the]
18      (2)  The school attendance area in which a school child
19           normally resides; [the]
20      (3)  The distance the school child lives from the school;
21           [the]
22      (4)  The availability of public carriers or other means of
23           transportation; [the]

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 1      (5)  The frequency, regularity, and availability of public
 2           transportation; and [the]
 3      (6)  The grade level, physical [handicap,] disability, or
 4           special learning disability of a school child[, and
 5           it].
 6      The department may also consider such conditions and
 7 circumstances unique or peculiar to a county or area."
 8      SECTION 6.  Section 302A-407, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is
 9 amended as follows:
10      1.  By amending subsection (a) to read:
11      "(a)  Any other law to the contrary notwithstanding, except
12 as provided in subsection (e), school bus contracts between the
13 State and a private contractor may be extended for two years by
14 mutual agreement; provided that the parties may agree to extend
15 the contract for an additional two years thereafter.  The
16 compensation due to the contractor by the State for each extended
17 year may be increased by an amount not to exceed five per cent of
18 the previous year's compensation.  In addition, the compensation
19 due to the contractor by the State for any original or extended
20 contract year may be increased by a reasonable amount for
21 unanticipated inflationary increases in the cost of fuel.  If the
22 original contract between the State and a private contractor
23 already includes an option to extend the contract period, this

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 1 subsection shall apply after the contract option is exercised."
 2      2.  By amending subsection (e) to read:
 3      "(e)  The contract between the State and the contractor
 4 shall include a provision requiring the contractor to equip the
 5 contractor's vehicles with the signs and visual signals described
 6 in section 291C-95(d) and (g).  Any contract between the State
 7 and the contractor negotiated or extended after January 1, 2000,
 8 shall also include a provision requiring the contractor to equip
 9 the contractor's vehicles with a seat belt assembly for each seat
10 in the vehicle.  The term "seat belt assembly" has the same
11 meaning as provided in section 291-11.6(a).  The contract shall
12 also include other provisions as may be deemed necessary by the
13 State for the safety of school bus passengers and shall include
14 provisions requiring periodic refurbishment of school buses over
15 ten years old."
16      SECTION 7.  There is appropriated out of the general
17 revenues of the State of Hawaii the sum of $        , or so much
18 thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 1999-2000, for the
19 purposes of this Act.  The sum appropriated shall be expended by
20 the department of transportation for the purposes of this Act.
21      SECTION 8.  Statutory material to be repealed is bracketed.
22 New statutory material is underscored.

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 1      SECTION 9.  This Act shall take effect on January 1, 2000;
 2 provided that section 7 shall take effect on July 1, 1999.
 4                           INTRODUCED BY:  _______________________