My daughter was in first grade the first time she boarded a bus to school.

I’ll admit, it was a bit of a foreign concept to me, a childhood tradition that I somehow missed out on. I was a private school kid throughout elementary school and by the time I transitioned to public school in junior high, the school was within walking distance. In high school, I mostly drove myself or rode with friends.

And thus, the school bus “experience” was just something I didn’t have growing up.

But starting in kindergarten, my daughter begged to ride the bus to school. She’d see the neighborhood kids waiting at the bus stop each morning as we took her to school and or she would see the same kids hopping off the bus and running down the street together when at the end of the day.

It took a leap of faith for me, putting my oldest child on the school bus that first day. She wore an oversized, monogrammed backpack slung across her shoulders and her large hair bow bounced as she boarded the bus. My daughter was thrilled to be doing something “on her own,” without me. I knew it was an important step of independence for her to take. Still, it didn’t make it any easier.

A year later, we now have two kids that take the school bus each morning. I relish that time with my 7-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son, walking them to the bus stop each day, getting that one last hug and kiss before they board the bus to school, telling them that I love them and encouraging them to have a great day at school.

It’s a ritual of ours, one that came to mind when news spread last month about the Chattanooga, Tennessee, school bus crash, which left six children dead and injured dozens of others. The bus, driven by 24-year-old Johnthony Walker, slammed into a tree, splitting a bus filled with 37 kids in half.

My first thought: It could have been my kids or any other child that rides a school bus. My second thought: I wonder if the parents were able to kiss and hug their kids before school that morning. I can’t imagine that a parent endures when a child dies.

Walker has since been charged with multiple vehicular homicide charges, along with charges of reckless endangerment and reckless driving. While Walker tested negative for any traces of drugs or alcohol, investigators have said that he was driving down an unapproved route and was speeding.

The investigation into the incident also shows that students and parents had previously complained about Walker’s driving and behavior.

Meanwhile parents, the city of Chattanooga, and the nation still grieve.

I think we could learn a lot from the incident. Although school buses are generally considered a safe method of transportation to and from school, there is no federal mandate requiring seat belts in school buses. Only six states, New York, California, Florida, New Jersey, Louisiana and Texas have laws that require school buses to be equipped with seat belts for passengers, according to CNN.

The lack of school bus seat belts actually goes against recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which suggests that seat belts be installed on newly manufactured school buses. The National Safety Council has made similar recommendations.

But installing seat belts on school buses wouldn’t come without cost. The National High Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that installing seat belts in a large school bus would cost between $7,346 to $10,296 per bus, according to CNN.

Still, as I kiss my own children each morning and send them on their bus to school, I can’t help but think they would be safer with seat belts. Ask the parents whose children died on that Chattanooga school bus. I’m sure they’d say any price would be worth it if their children would still be alive.

— Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa (Alabama) News. Reach her at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com.