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West Virginia Education Dept. won't require bus seat belts

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Board of Education members have chosen not to require seat belts be added to state school buses.

The board made the decision Wednesday while reviewing its bus policy, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration allows states to choose whether buses have restraints in place for students, though that goes against advice from the National Transportation Safety Board and American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommend them.

West Virginia officials placed the idea of adding enhanced restraints for children under 5 and weighing less than 40 pounds (18 kilograms) before the public at a series of comment sessions in October. The State Department of Education then backtracked and said that was an inadvertent proposal, changing it to just a recommendation ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, the newspaper said.

The department defended its decision in a statement saying school buses are designed to be safer than passenger vehicles, pointing to their compartmentalized seats and high energy absorbing seat backs. But in October, the department announced a flaw had been discovered with those seat backs when nearly 400 buses were found to lack the cushioning needed to absorb impacts and prevent injuries in the event of a crash.