Two days after the Huntsville incident, school bus crash announced the creation of a committee to study whether school buses should have seat belts. The panel includes state Superintendent of Education Joe Morton, Alabama Department of Transportation Director Joe McInnes, and Alabama Department of Public Safety Director Chris Murphy. The group will talk with pediatricians, bus manufacturers, and others before making its recommendations in time for the next legislative session in March. The Governor called for a review of school bus safety in the wake of the November 20th school bus crash in Huntsville that killed four students and injured several others. Federal transportation department officials had promised to assist in an analysis of school bus safety and the need for seat belts on buses. The committee members were instructed to focus first on the safety issue. A two-day public hearing was to be held in Huntsville on February 5th and 6th.
As a matter of interest, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled in a previous case that the failure of a manufacturer to install seat belts for passengers in school buses didn’t provide a cause of action under the Alabama Extended Manufacturers Liability Doctrine. Unless the court changes that decision, a ruling which really can’t be justified under product liability law, the manufacturers could have virtual immunity in Alabama. The Legislature could change that by amending the Alabama code section that now requires drivers of school buses to use seat belts and make it so that it would also include passengers. But, the Supreme Court really shouldn’t need any legislative help on this issue. It can simply correct the old opinion.
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