NE mom continues push for seat belts in school buses - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE;

NE mom continues push for seat belts in school buses

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By: Kayla Bremer

Dawn Prescott describes October 13, 2001 as the worst day of her life.

Her 14–year–old son Ben and three others died in a school bus accident in Omaha.

The bus filled with the Seward marching band was headed home from a competition when it went off a bridge, fell 50 feet and landed on its side in a creek.

Prescott was on the bus that afternoon with her son.

"They're carrying me up and I can see these people putting a T–shirt over my son's face and I started screaming, 'you can't give up on him, that's my son,' and they said, 'we can't get an airway,'" Prescott said.

Prescott suffered a collapsed lung, separated shoulder, broken ribs and pelvis, and broken vertebrae in her lower back.

Since then, she's pushed for legislation requiring new school buses to be equipped with seat belts.

"Compartmentalization is designed for rear impact so if someone ran into the back of the bus, the kids supposedly are seated in these tight spaces so they'll just hit the front of the seat.  Well, I think our kids are worth more than that."

A new study from the National Transportation Safety Board says only about 20 percent of the nation's nearly 500,000 school buses have seat belts available.

The study says although school buses are extremely safe, passengers who properly wear lap and shoulder belts are much safer, especially in severe side impacts and rollovers.

Lincoln Public Schools Director of Transportation Bill McCoy says about 60 percent of LPS buses have lap belts.  He says state law does require that if seat belts are present on a bus, they must be used.

"It's pinballs in there," Prescott said.  "You're just tossed around.  You know I think my injuries were caused by bodies slamming into me and if you were belted, I know Ben would be here.  He may have been injured but he would have been in his seat."

Prescott says she'll continue to push for seat belt laws until she sees it happen no matter how long it takes.

She says it's the only way she'll be able to make sense of the tragedy that took her son nearly 12 years ago.

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