Working group rolls out recommendations to enhance safety on Ohio school buses

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The state’s School Bus Safety Task Force laid out over a dozen recommendations to enhance the safety of school bus travel in Ohio today.

>> PREVIOUS COVERAGE: DeWine announces school bus safety task force; ‘Everyone wants our kids safer’

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine first announced the Ohio School Bus Safety Working Group just days after the school bus crash in Clark County that killed 11-year-old Aiden Clark and injured over two dozen other Northwestern Schools students in August. The students were on their way to the first day of school.

Now, five months after the crash, the group has released their final report during a news conference in Columbus that News Center 7 attended.

During the six meetings held since its creation in August, the group heard from 30 guest speakers from across the country. After that, they came up with 17 recommendations on how to make school buses in Ohio safer.

Among the recommendations, the Ohio Department of Transportation should help audit the physical safety of roads in and around school zones. DeWine said that work has already started.

>> ORIGINAL COVERAGE: Student killed, over 20 other students injured after school bus crash in Clark Co.

As reported on News Center 7 at 5:00, the group said that state lawmakers should work to stiffen criminal penalties for drivers who break traffic laws in school zones and around school buses. They also said the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce should work with state legislatures to develop and fund a needs-based grant program to help districts in school bus safety features like lights or markings to increase visibility or crash avoidance technology.

The task force also said school buses should continue to not be required to have seatbelts in Ohio.

“After hearing from the experts, hearing from our bus drivers, looking at the data, or the lack of data from states that have mandated seatbelts and listening to school districts who have tried the pilot program on their buses, we became convinced that a statewide mandate of seatbelts on buses is not the most effective use of government resources to keep our kids safe,” Andy Wilson, director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, said.

>> RELATED: Local state representatives react to creation of school bus safety task force

In November, Springfield State Representative Bernie Willis told News Center 7′s John Bedell about a bill he introduced that would make Ohio the 9th state to require seatbelts on school buses. He said the task force’s recommendations would directly impact his bill.

After the working group decided to not recommend a statewide mandate on the issue, Bedell asked Willis what would happen to his bill now.

“We will amend that bill so that we can keep it moving inside the committee and in the (Ohio) House process. So our goal was really to have a placeholder,” Willis said.

A full breakdown of the group’s 17 recommendations can be found here.