- Associated Press - Sunday, March 27, 2016

GRIFFITH, Ind. (AP) - Calls for seatbelts on Indiana’s school buses are growing after a bus carrying a school basketball team overturned in a crash on Interstate 65.

The Griffith team was traveling to a state tournament game March 19 when police say the bus was sideswiped by a car and rolled over into a ditch near DeMotte. An assistant coach was hospitalized with injuries that were not life-threatening, while the other 26 players and staff members on the bus were treated and released.

Like most states, Indiana doesn’t require seatbelts on school buses. Two bills in the Legislature that called for that didn’t receive committee hearings this year.

After seeing photos from the weekend crash, state Sen. Earline Rogers, who sponsored one of the bus bills, sent a letter to legislative leaders asking that the issue be put on a summer interim study committee’s agenda.

“You look at that bus and it’s a wonder anybody got out of there alive,” she told the (Merrillville) Post-Tribune.

The Gary Democrat said the proposals were ignored because lawmakers faced many other issues during this year’s 10-week session, and acknowledged cost has always been an issue.

“I do think we can work it out,” she said. “What’s the cost of a life being lost?”

Indiana Department of Education spokeswoman Samantha Hart said the department doesn’t have the authority to require seatbelts, making it a local issue. The Westfield-Washington school district has started a pilot program with seatbelts on six buses that travel on interstate highways.

The Vigo County School Corp. in western Indiana is continuing to research school bus seatbelts, the (Terre Haute) Tribune-Star reported.

Franklin Fennell, the district’s transportation director, said he’s been gathering information and talking to other school districts.

“Some corporations would love to do it, outside of the cost,” he said.

Fennell hopes to present findings this summer to the district’s school board.

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