No child left behind … on the school bus, that is … with electronic seat check reminders.

A new proposal making its way through the legislative process aims to prevent kids from being left on school buses, causing unnecessary stress on families and maybe even the death of the child. State Representative Mike Sheridan (D-Janesville) says he drafted this bill after one of his constituents lost her job as a bus driver because of accidentally leaving a kid on the bus.

“I guess the child had fallen asleep and luckily was old enough to … that woke up and … was scared to death, of course, but got off the bus and went home. Her parents were frantic but at least she made it home OK.”

Sheridan says it could have been a lot worse. He recalls the tragedy of June 2005, when two-year-old Asia Jones of Milwaukee died after being left alone in a daycare van that was later estimated to have reached 128 degrees.

Sheridan says it would cost about $50 to $60 per unit and, unfortunately, it would be the responsibility of the school districts.

“And we know that it's very tough for the school districts and you know, I hate to say it, but this is another one of those situations where we'd have another unfunded mandate. But for the safety of our children I think it's an important thing to do.”

This new bill requires school buses to be equipped with an electronic seat check reminder system, which sounds an alarm when the driver turns off the ignition switch and exits the bus, that is, unless he walks to the back of the bus and deactivates the system. By doing so, the driver would walk passed each seat, checking them all for remaining passengers.

State law already mandates certain safety features for school buses, like being painted yellow and black; flashing red signals, 360-degree flashing white strobe light, extended stop sign and a crossing gate. There are similar laws in other states, including Colorado, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

Sheridan says his proposal is in the beginning stages, so he doesn't have a suggested penalty for a violation. The bill (AB-203) was recently referred to the Transportation Committee in the Assembly, where the Chairs will eventually decide to have a public hearing on it.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report (1:35 MP3)

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