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Dillon School District Four says school bus seat belts could both help, hurt students

Right now Dillon School District Four buses only have seat belts in the first two rows for small children. (WPDE)

There have been three school bus crashes in two days across our area.

The National Transportation Safety Board has new recommendations for school buses, including seat belts and automatic emergency breaks.

Right now in the Carolinas, school buses aren't required to have seat belts.

Niesha Newell puts five of her children on a school bus in Dillon every morning.

"I think it's safe they catch it right here at the corner," Newell said.

After seeing the school bus crash in Robeson County, she wants them to be safer.

"Scary, got me thinking that buses should have seat belts," Newell said.

Right now Dillon School District Four buses only have seat belts in the first two rows for small children.

"[They're] for a smaller child...kindergarten through third graders," Transportation Supervisor Linda Hanna said.

Hanna said the buses security systems keep drivers and students accountable. The cameras capture what happens inside and outside the buses. If an accident happened, they would review the footage to find out exactly what happened.

The NTSB recommends all large school buses to have lap and shoulder belts.

Carrie Swindler drove a school bus for 15 years and says it may actually be dangerous for students to be buckled in during some emergencies.

"The driver has a seat belt, but you can get out of your seat belt a lot quicker than you can get 60 kids out," Swindler said.

Hanna said they can be both good and bad.

"[If] you had a small child that did not know how to get out of that seat belt the proper way and with the accuracy that they should have, it could be very dangerous for them. The driver would have to get up go unbuckle that seat belt," Hanna said.

The NTSB also recommends automatic emergency brakes.

Hanna said as long as her drivers follow the rules of the road the brakes are unnecessary, but they could help.

"That’s why we have to make sure our kids are always trained to be seated in their seats and it would be to their advantage if they did have that safety added on to it," Hanna said.

Hanna added the drivers have to go through training twice a year.

Overall, Newell trusts the school bus drivers.

"The bus driver, I know her. I think she can handle them pretty good," Newell said.

The NTSB also recommended requiring all new school buses to have collision avoidance systems.

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