Doctors who treated the children injured in the Chattanooga school bus crash in Tennessee last November testified before a House subcommittee Wednesday, March 23, to support three proposed bills that aim to correct some of the problems that likely contributed to the severity of the crash.
According to The Tennessean, Dr. Alan Kohrt, chief medical officer at T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital in Chattanooga, said the night of Nov. 21 was “the most difficult of my professional life.”
Four of the 37 children aboard the school bus died at the scene. Two more children died later at the hospital, and 30 others were injured, many severely and with permanent, debilitating injuries.
Chattanooga Democratic Rep. Joanne Favors, who represents the district where the crash occurred, sponsored two of the school bus safety bills. If passed, the measures would raise the minimum age of school bus drivers, add a provision to require new buses to be equipped with seat belts, and impose restrictions on school bus drivers with a record of previous offenses.
School bus driver Johnthony Walker, 24, has been charged with six counts of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment, and reckless driving. He also had a history of crashes and traffic offenses when he was employed by Durham School Services, which contracted with Chattanooga to provide public school transportation in the city.
Dr. Kohrt said raising the minimum age of school bus drivers makes sense both legally and biologically. Legally because most rental car companies have a minimum age requirement and biologically because medical research shows that “most male brains don’t mature until at least 25.”
Dr. S. David Bhattacharya, a pediatric trauma surgeon who treated some of the children injured in the bus crash, told the subcommittee that many of the patients would have been less severe if they had been secured with a three-point seat belt like those found in passenger vehicles.
“Bhattacharya testified that while not using seat belts reduces the number of fatal injuries, the number of other severe injuries like fractured and broken bones and internal bleeding, is higher when no restraints are used,” The Tennessean reported.
While seat belts may have mitigated some of the injuries children on the school bus suffered, bills to require seat belts on school buses usually fail due to costs and other safety considerations, such as the prospect of young children becoming trapped in a crash involving fire or a submerged bus.
Source: The Tennessean