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Seat belts on school buses? 'I think it's just a matter of time'

“In my personal opinion, I think it's just a matter of time before we do see seat belts on every school bus in the country,” said Chris Ellison, Transportation Manager for the Eugene School District. (SBG/Ashley Force)

EUGENE, Ore. – Remember catching the school bus as a kid?

School transportation has come a long way since then.

New safety technology has allowed school buses to be the safest they have ever been, school transportation officials say.

Eugene School District 4J school buses are equipped with high tech cameras, but it doesn’t stop there.

“High intensity LED lighting so that the school buses are more visible. Increased crash protection. There is a steel cage built around the bus,” said Chris Ellison, Transportation Manager for the Eugene School District.

That steel cage can support one-and-a-half times its own weight: handy if the bus ever rolled over.

Studies show you are 70 times more likely to arrive at school safely on a bus rather than taking the family car.

RELATED | Grand jury indicts driver involved in deadly Tennessee bus crash

Something you still won't find on a bus, though: seat belts.

Only smaller buses are federally required to have belts.

According to Ellison, the school district has never had a student injury on a bus accident, despite no seat belts on the big 80-student busses.

Ellison said that might change.

“In my personal opinion, I think it's just a matter of time before we do see seat belts on every school bus in the country,” he said.

Motorists: Stop for buses. The bus is watching.

Now other cars on the road just need to remember to stop for buses.

Ellison said many drivers forget.

If you see amber colored lights flashing on a school bus, that means prepare to stop.

If you see red lights flashing on a school bus, it’s the law to stop.

“Locally, the fine for running school bus red lights is approximately $660," Ellison said. "If you potentially put a student in danger then it gets ramped up to reckless driving which is a class a misdemeanor."

If you are a driver that breaks those rules, all eyes are on you.

Ellison said some 4J bus drivers have trained their students who are riding the bus to look out of the window and write down the make and model of the car, and the license plate number to be turned into Eugene police.

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