Texas School Bus Seatbelt Law

Large, lumbering yellow school buses are iconic in the U.S., including in Texas. We typically think of these buses as a safe and nostalgic part of every childhood, but 104 people died in school bus accidents in 2022. While some of these deaths occurred to those in other vehicles involved in the crash or to pedestrians, a significant portion of those fatalities were children riding a bus to or from school or on field trips. 

In 2017, Texas joined seven other states with school bus seatbelt laws by signing Texas State Senate Bill 693 into law. The seatbelt law requires all new buses purchased by Texas school districts to come equipped with three-point seatbelts for all passengers and the operator.

Texas Passed a School Seatbelt Law in 2017 to Protect Children

Austin school seatbelt laws

Texas is one of a handful of states to move toward mandatory seatbelt protection for children on school buses with the passage of Senate Bill 693 signed into law by Texas Governor, Greg Abbot. The law requires new bus purchases to include 3-point seatbelts, or shoulder-to-lap belts for all passengers and drivers to increase safety. The law states the following:

“It is the public policy of this state to ensure the safety of all students by taking every measure possible to protect the lives and wellbeing of students during transportation on a bus to and from school and extra-curricular activities.”

What Are the Requirements of the Texas Seatbelt Law?

Texas passed Senate Bill 693 into law during the state’s 85th legislative session in 2017. Since that time, many Texas residents revealed bewilderment when a recent bus accident in Texas resulted in multiple injuries and the death of a five-year-old boy northeast of Austin in Bastrop County. The school bus was forced sideways off the road after a head-on impact by a cement truck that veered into the bus’s lane. The Bastrop County bus was not equipped with seatbelts as it transported children, teachers, and parent chaperones on a field trip to a zoo.

According to officials, the bus didn’t have to have seatbelts because it was purchased prior to the passing of the law in 2017. The law essentially “grandfathered in” older buses by requiring seatbelts in all new school buses purchased by Texas school districts. In addition, school districts may bypass the requirement to purchase buses with seatbelts if the school district votes against the more expensive purchases due to budgeting problems. The school boards may only approve purchasing buses without seatbelts at public meetings.

What Does the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Say About Seatbelt Laws on School Buses?

According to the NCSL, buses transport children over 5.7 billion miles each year. Compared to riding in individual vehicles, children are 70 times less likely to experience injuries in an accident while riding a bus. The close spaces between seats and high seat backs provide the benefit of “compartmentalization” which helps to minimize injuries in an accident. Still, an average of 6 children die in bus accidents each year. In 2018, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that every state enact laws requiring 3-point seatbelts on all school buses. Additionally, many school districts are using cameras to capture images of vehicles that pass stopped school buses in dangerous violation of the law.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a school bus accident, reach out to a bus accident lawyer in Austin today to discuss your case.