AUSTIN (KXAN) - A school bus seat belt law took effect Wednesday, requiring all Texas school districts buying new buses to have lap/shoulder belts.
The state might have a hard time enforcing it though, after the Texas Education Agency slashed funding for the program from $10 million to $3.6 million. That leaves far fewer dollars for districts to receive reimbursements.
Supporters, however, are confident the governor will intervene to restore that full amount. KXAN Austin News tracked down a survivor of the bus crash that inspired the law and is fighting to keep the law alive.
"We always joked that we were twins separated at birth because we had the exact same birthday, and we were exactly alike," said Sarah Beach, talking about her best friend Ashley Brown and remembering their good times together. "We both thought we were the funniest people in the world."
Four years ago, Sarah was 16 years old in high school in Beaumont and on her way to a soccer playoff game in a bus with no seat belts.
"I was on the left side, sitting next to Ashley," Sarah said.
She thinks Ashley was napping when the bus swerved on the rainy highway.
"That's the last thing I remember, until I was on the side of the road," she said. "Ashley was still on the bus."
Ashley and another girl, Alicia Bonura died that day. Sarah was among the dozens severely injured, with a shoulder scraped to the bone and deep cuts on her arm. Tendons severed in her wrist, she spent more than a month recovering in the hospital.
"Huge bald spot on my head, because my head was scraped down to my skull, and my ear was in pieces hanging down."
She said she often thinks what life would be like if she had been buckled in that day, if she had not lost her best friend.
"She'd be right here with me. We'd be enjoying college together," said Sarah.
Ashley became Sarah's drive to work with lawmakers to make sure all new school buses in Texas have a lap/shoulder belt.
"I'll see her one day," Sarah sobbed. "I miss her every day. That's a hard question. I love her, and I miss her. She's my daily inspiration in life."
Check out Josh's Political Blog for detailed information about bus crashes throughout Texas.
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