Tennessee's changing school bus laws: are they enough?

After the horrific Chattanooga school bus crash that claimed the lives of six children in 2016, there has been much debate over school bus safety statewide. Countless parents and lawmakers alike have begun to question whether bus drivers have taken proper safety measures while on the job in the past. Fortunately, Tennessee laws have changed since this tragic accident. Yet are those changes big enough to make a difference?  

Although accidents such as the 2016 crash are irreversible, lawmakers have worked to make transportation safer for all future bus riders. The Tennessean shared last month that, as of January, school bus drivers in the state must be at least 25 years old. The changes were a direct reaction to the Chattanooga crash, in which the driver had been speeding and texting. In addition to the updated age requirement for employment, school bus drivers must complete safety training and have five consecutive years of driving under their belts. School districts and charter school transportation supervisors must also appoint new drivers. Most Tennessee residents see these steps as advancements in safety, but some see the system as falling short when it failed to make changes regarding seat belt requirements.


Understanding state laws surrounding motor vehicle accidents can certainly help clarify devastating incidents. Shortly after the Chattanooga accident, CNN raised an important question: that of Tennessee school bus laws and systems. CNN cited the state's Supreme Court to stress that school bus drivers do not operate under the same degree of care as, for instance, train operators and pilots. Instead of practicing the highest degree of care, school bus drivers must exercise reasonable care for children under the circumstances -- meaning that this protection could depend on a child's perceived ability to care for his or herself. Along with the halt of seat belt efforts on school buses in the state, many believe that Tennessee law could do more to protect its children.    

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