Bluffton bus tragedy - one year later

Sunday marks the first anniversary of the bus crash that killed five members of the Bluffton University baseball team, the bus driver and his wife. The bus driver didn't realize he'd gone up an exit ramp on I-75 near Atlanta, Georgia. The bus crashed, killing athletes Zachary Arend, David Betts, Scott Harmon, Cody Holp and Tyler Williams. The driver and his wife also died. John and Joy Betts, David TMs parents, say a year hasn't eased the pain of their loss.

The loss is very great, says John Betts, and no matter how much I talk about and want not to be emotional about it a year later, it's still pretty emotional.

The Betts family is channeling that emotion toward passage of the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act of 2007, a bill now moving through the United States Senate. John Betts says passengers riding coach buses need better accident protection.

You have a false sense of security; you feel you're in a big thing, so I TMm safe. No; you're going to be, as my son was, launched.

The bill would require all coach buses to have seat belts, stronger roofs, reinforced windows and fire extinguishers. It would also require better training for bus drivers. John Betts says these precautions may have saved his son.

This is about safety! Who isn't in favor of safety? he asks.

Joy Betts says they're organizing a grassroots campaign in support of the bill.

We've been working together on writing letters, she says, trying to get other people to write letters also to the Senators.

They'll never know if these measures would have saved David TMs life. But, standing at his grave in Bryan, they say he would be proud of their efforts.

He would really feel as though, if another life was saved by what they did, by changing highway design and saving lives and helping people in the future, his response would be: ~Sweet! TM

Betts says the bill is facing organized opposition from national bus and motorcoach associations. He says bus company lobbyists fear the changes would cost the companies too much money to put into effect, nationwide.

European countries, plus Australia and New Zealand require seatbelts on all coach buses. Betts cited a study in New Zealand that found between 1996 an 2006 there were no accident deaths on any bus that had seat belts.