Student Drives Seat-Belt Crusade

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On a fateful day two years ago, a Miami 2nd grader was blithely traveling with his classmates on a field trip, when suddenly the school bus screeched to a halt.

"Everyone went flying forward," Aaron Gordon, now age 9, recalls, "and I thought to myself how a seat belt would make a difference."

The youngster's life has not been the same since. With the help of his parents and peers, Aaron has turned his concern into a crusade to get shoulder-harness seat belts in school buses.

First, Aaron and his friends collected 3,000 signatures on a petition to bring to the school board. The board told him that lap seat belts in buses had been proved unsafe because they damage internal organs.

Undaunted, Aaron came up with an alternative modeled after the over-the-shoulder restraints worn by flight attendants. Aaron's idea eventually attracted the support of his state representative, who talked up the idea in the legislature.

As a result, the state House Transportation Committee has asked the Center for Urban Transportation Research in Tampa to test the idea. The testing stage will take one to two years, Aaron explains.

"I feel proud, and I feel discouraged," Aaron says of his campaign. He knows that many school districts and the state education department continue to say that seat belts of any kind do not improve the safety of students, are impractical, and require high maintenance.

But Aaron's parents and teachers, and the state's legislators have nothing but praise for his tenacity.

"The important thing here is for children to understand that, if they follow through the process, people in higher places will listen," Aaron's mother, Ruth, a teacher, says. --W.M.

Vol. 11, Issue 08, Page 2

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