School bus driver sounds off about seat belt bill

HAMILTON COUNTY, Tenn (WDEF) — Tennessee lawmakers are working on new safety measures, following the deadly Woodmore Elementary school bus crash last fall.

Garland Johnson is a contracted school bus driver. He has been driving buses for 18 years in Hamilton County.

“I just enjoy it. I enjoy the kids,” Johnson said.

A bill is moving forward that would require Tennessee school buses to have seat belts by July 2023.
This stems from the Woodmoore Elementary bus crash in November that killed six children.

“In some cases they might help. But I think in a lot of cases they won’t help. It is going to be hard to get it adjusted from a big kid to a little kid,” Johnson said.

Johnson feels his bus is safe the way it is. He says the padding on the seats helps in normal crashes.

Dr. Alan Kohrt, the chief medical officer at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger was overseeing doctors and talking to parents after the Woodmore bus crash.

“This was without a doubt the most difficult night of my life as far as a professional,” Dr. Kohrt said.

At Wednesday’s hearing Dr. Kohrt testified, saying three point seat belts could have helped the children in the bus crash.

“Most of it was side impact. It wasn’t front impact, it wasn’t back impact, it was side impact. And so if there had been three point seat belts that would have protected those kids, but what happened instead was they were thrown from one side to the other side,” Dr. Kohrt said.

Dr. Kohrt says for the children involved in the crash there was a lot of force to the chest

“With a three point system all that force is dispersed  throughout the chest in the abdomen rather than just being in one spot.”

Johnson says when a crash happens, it all goes back to the bus driver.

“Most bus drivers get the right amount of training. They don’t always abide by it.”

The next step for the bill is for it to move to the full Transportation Committee on Tuesday, March 28.

Categories: Education, Hamilton County, Local News

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