DeWine announces school bus safety task force; ‘Everyone wants our kids safer’

SPRINGFIELD — Discussions about transportation safety in the wake of the deadly Clark County school bus crash this week will continue with the creation of a task force focused on possible state reform that could include seatbelts.

Gov. Mike DeWine announced the move Friday during a visit to Clark County.

Questions about seatbelts on school buses are continuing, three days after 11-year-old Aiden Clark died when he was thrown from a Northwestern Local School District bus that was hit by a minivan on state Route 41 (Troy Road). More than 20 children on that bus were injured.

“Why are we required to have seatbelts in the car but not in the bus full of children?” Chelsea Berg of Clark County asked.

Kayla Arrasmith, a Northwestern Local Schools parent, said, “I think seatbelts are a state law in the back of my vehicle. For me to drive my own child. For someone else to drive my child on a passenger bus that can hold 50, 60 kids, I definitely think seatbelts should be required.”

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DeWine said, “yes” when News Center 7 Reporter John Bedell asked him whether the state should study whether buses in Ohio should have seatbelts.

The task force, the governor said, will take a “holistic look” at school bus safety.

“Statistically, riding a school bus is safe,” he said. “We know it’s safer than being in a car. We know it’s safer than virtually any other form of transportation.

“But -- maybe we can make it safer. And that’s what we want to look at,” DeWine said. “Seatbelts are certainly one of the things that this task force will will look at, but they’ll look at other things.”

Who will be on that task force will be announced in the next few days, he said, but the task force will be created “for us to look at bus safety, period.”

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The task force will look at other things as well, he said.

“Everyone wants our kids safer, even safer than they are, and so I think that we need to look at this, we need to look at what the data says, we need to look at what other states have done,” DeWine said.

The governor’s announcement pleases Berg and others, including Superintendent Jesse Steiner, Northwestern Local Schools.

“I’m not an expert on safety belts, on school buses,” Steiner said. “But I’ve heard the governor is putting together a task force to investigate that. And I’m assuming he’s going to use experts in the field. And so I look forward to hearing what the governor’s recommendation is.”

Whether DeWine will be able to make changes on his own, administratively, will depend on what the task force recommends. There could be other measures or regulations state lawmakers would have to help the governor implement.

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