BLUFFTON ‚?? Five years after a Bluffton University bus crash killed seven, safety legislation designed to improve such travel passed the Senate Wednesday.The Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act, proposed by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, is part of a five-year transportation funding bill. It passed by a vote of 74-22 and now heads to the House. The safety act, in its third try, would increase and expand safety requirements for motor coach drivers and companies. ‚??This bill will save lives,‚?Ě Brown said. Brown first introduced the legislation, which was passed unanimously by a key Senate panel last year, after the March 2, 2007, bus crash that killed five baseball players and two others.The team was traveling to Florida for a tournament when the bus fell from a bridge onto Interstate 75 in Atlanta. The crash killed players Tyler Williams, of Lima; Scott Harmon, of Elida; David Betts, of Bryan; Cody Holp, of Arcanum; and Zachary Arend, of Oakwood. The bus driver and wife, Jerome ‚??Jerry‚?Ě and Jean Niemeyer, of Columbus Grove, also died.‚??I have three reactions: It is great. It is about time and we are only halfway there,‚?Ě said John Betts, whose son David died in the crash.Betts has fought for such motor coach safety changes since the accident. He saw the bus after the accident and said all seats were intact, leading him to believe the Bluffton players would have survived. All died from being thrown from their seats, he said. ‚??I flat-out say that David would be alive if there were seat belts in that motor coach and if there would have been window glazing and better safety glass,‚?Ě he said. ‚??All those boys would still be with us.‚?ĚThe legislation is based on National Transportation Safety Board recommendations. It would require safety belts and stronger seating systems, improved commercial driver training, anti-ejection glazing windows, strong crush-resistant roofs and improved protection against fires. It would also call for electronic onboard recorders.‚??These safety measures are common-sense safety features that have been widely used,‚?Ě Brown said. ‚??By equipping buses with seat belts, stronger roofs, and safer windows, we can prevent deaths and minimize injuries. With bus ridership increasing, it‚??s more important than ever to pass this legislation. We need to ensure bus trips don‚??t turn into tragedies.‚?ĚBrown and Hutchison introduced the act in the previous two Congresses. U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., has introduced a companion bill in the House. Last Congress, the bill unanimously passed out of committee with broad bipartisan support but was held up on the floor by a single senator, never receiving a full Senate vote.‚??We are pleased to learn of this progress toward bus safety enhancements that will help reduce loss of life and injury in future bus accidents,‚?Ě Bluffton President James Harder said. ‚??As a community that has suffered such losses in the past, we applaud all who have been working to get this legislation approved.‚?ĚThe House could either take up the Senate version of the full bill or could pass its own version, Brown‚??s office said. The current transportation funding expires March 31.U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, voted against the overall bill Wednesday because he said it violates the Budget Control Act the Congress passed in August. ‚??At a time of trillion-dollar deficits and a record $15 trillion debt,‚?Ě he said. ‚??Congress must at the very least live by the spending restraint rules just put in place.‚?ĚYou can comment on this story at www.limaohio.com.