Effective September 1, all new school buses have to be equipped with seat belts. The Texas Education Agency was all set up to fund this new law. However, recently all state agencies, including TEA had to make budget cuts. Originally, TEA put aside $10 million for this and now there's only $3.6 million. Which means West Texas bus riders might not be buckling up any time soon.
"There's times that drivers pull out in front of you, but you have to stop and those kids slide and things can happen," says ECISD bus driver James Fulfer.
Fulfer, is an ECISD bus driver and says he's never gotten into an accident, but he's had several close calls.
"I think with the seat belts, I think it will help prevent possible incidents from happening," says Fulfer.
Who also believes school buses are safe, but seat belts would make things safer. This seat belt law is only mandatory if the state backs it up with funding.
"The way it's looking right now, the criteria of getting any of that money doesn't look favorable for any school districts in West Texas," explains ECISD Transportation Director, David Morris.
The state has a priority list of what districts will get some of that $3.6 million for seat belts. Things like the size of buses and the number of bus crashes that occur in the district are on that list.
"Unless something changes we're probably not going to get funding for that," says Morris.Buses cost about $90,000 and that's without seat belts.
But, if you add seatbelts, that add about $10,000 to the cost. An expense that ECISD can't afford.
"We can't absorb that as a district. We're looking at purchasing 7 buses this year, that would be an additional $10,000 we'd be spending on our on buses," says Morris.
On a side note, this law also specifies what type of seat belt; which is the three point belt, meaning it goes across the body and the lap.