How local school bus tragedy contributed to federal decision end - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

How local school bus tragedy contributed to federal decision endorsing seatbelts on school buses

PORT ST. LUCIE COUNTY - "It's very exciting, it’s reassuring in lots of ways that Aaron will have made a difference in some way," said Lillian Beauchamp in response to the latest move by the federal government.

On Sunday, the head of National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced the federal agency is now publicly supporting lap and shoulder belts be available on schools buses nationwide.  

"Do you believe that your son's tragedy helped influence this," asked the Contact 5 Investigators.

"Absolutely.  There's no way Aaron's accident wouldn't have been a part of this decision," said Lillian.

On March 26, 2012 9-year-old Aaron Beauchamp was the only student killed while dozens of others were injured when a St. Lucie County school district bus driver turned straight into the path of an on-coming semi.

While every child on board was wearing a lap-belt. bus surveillance video, which captured every second of the impact, revealed just how much children moved even when strapped in.

It's Something leading safety experts, whom the Contact 5 Investigators met with in Washington D.C. last month, had never seen before.

"It gave us a totally new look at school buses," said Dr. Kris Poland, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).  In an exclusive Contact 5 Investigation, Lessons from Aaron, Dr. Poland and Dr. Kristy Arbogast from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia detail their findings from a study of the Port St. Lucie crash that killed Aaron.

This summer, Dr. Poland presented her findings from several school bus crashes, including the one in Port St. Lucie, to NHTSA decision-makers.

As part of her presentation, Dr. Poland presented a simulation recreated from the crash that showed students on the bus with only lap belts and then a simulation that showed students wearing both and lap and shoulder belts.  Students wearing both lap and shoulder belts appeared to be better protected than students only wearing lap belts.  

"We have said all along that its about safety," said Aaron's mother, Lillian.

The federal agency isn't yet mandating 3-point seatbelts on school buses.  The Beauchamps and their attorneys hope that's next.

"I'd like to see someone step up and sponsor a bill making it a mandate nationwide that 3-point seatbelts go in all school buses to protect our precious cargo moving forward," said the Beauchamp's attorney, Lance Ivey of Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath.

"One child that gets killed or injured is one too many and, unfortunately, we can't rewind that for our family," said Lillian.

Their Aaron is gone but, they believe, he can still save so many others.

"I think the fact that he will be known for making a difference to others is fabulous, he would think," said his mom.

According to NHTSA:  On July 23, 2015, NHTSA hosted a meeting to address the challenges and barriers that have prevented schools from taking action to install three-point seat belt systems in school buses. There were several presenters at the meeting, including representatives from NHTSA, school transportation officials and industry experts.  The valuable information that was shared at NHTSA’s School Bus Occupant Protection meeting was one of many aspects that helped Administrator Rosekind in his decision.  

Copyright 2015 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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