WARNER ROBINS, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Nearly a month after the bus accident that killed a six year-old girl, a family member of the victim is advocating for seat belts on school buses.
“What can we do to keep the sun shining bright in other people’s lives? That’s my driving force is to save other babies,” said creator of the petition Lilybell Simpson.
There was a loss of light in Houston County after the death of first grader Arlana Haynes.
“Six year-old Arlana Haynes was in a school bus accident and was killed and it’s of course something that really rocked our community,” said State Sen. Larry Walker.
The tragic bus accident in Houston County shook an entire school system, parents, residents and more than anyone else–her family.
“I didn’t believe it, my little niece, six years old…I just didn’t believe it,” Simpson said.”Part of our sunshine is gone. The world has become a little darker, a little colder,” she continued.
Still facing the hurt, Simpson–Arlana’s aunt–is trying to find the light in their loss. So, she started a petition for seat belts on school buses.
“The first day I sent it out I got over 500 signatures,” Simpson said.
Using the hashtag ‘#BeltOurBabies’, Simpson is seeking to garner the attention of city and county officials including those at the Georgia State Capitol.
“I’ve had a number of constituents contact me about this, so in working with the Chairman of the Senate Public Safety Committee, Senator John Albert, I’ve started researching this issue,” Walker told 41NBC.
Walker says out of 32 states that have considered seat belts on school buses, only six have made it a mandate and that there’s still some debate around whether it would increase child safety on buses.
“There’s a lot of studies that have shown that requiring seat belts do not actually make children safer than the current system, but we will continue to look at it. My heart goes out to the family,” Walker added.
Simpson says now all the wants to see come from her family’s heartbreak is a solution.
“There’s no quick fix but there has to be a fix. I don’t want anybody else to have to go through what this family is going through right now,” she said.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are on average around 130 school vehicle-related crash deaths per year but only 8% of those were people riding inside the buses.
Simpson says once she reached 1,000 signatures, she plans to take the next step of working alongside officials in Houston County to organize a town hall meeting on the issue.
If you’re interested in signing the petition, you can click the link here.