At least 58 children died in school bus crashes between 2007-2016.
Most school buses have no seat belts to help keep our children safe.
Seatbelts have been required to be installed in all personal passenger cars before we were able to put a man on the moon! Federal law, Title 49 of the United States Code, Chapter 301, Motor Vehicle Safety Standard, which took effect on January 1, 1968, required all vehicles (except buses) to be fitted with seat belts in all designated seating positions.
This law has since been modified to require three-point seat belts in outboard-seating positions, and finally three-point seat belts in all seating positions. Initially, seat belt use was voluntary.
Think of this: buses, whose entire reason for existence is to carry passengers like school children on the roads, are the only vehicles that don’t have to even have seat belts!
Why would this be the case?
Here are the most common arguments against seatbelts in buses:
Lack of compliance. Since seat belts are effective only if they are used, compliance is admittedly an issue.
On a bus that transports many children, it is difficult to enforce the use of seat belts.
There are the regular maintenance costs. Seat belts do require maintenance—to adjust them from child to child, to keep them in good working order and to keep them clean.
Size of kids are issues as children younger than 8 years old need a chest harness instead of a lap belt.
The experts maintain that seatbelts are not needed. The idea is called “compartmentalization.” Seat “compartments” are designed to absorb the force in a crash, protecting the children, School Transportation News says.
Also, newer model bus seats are higher, wider and thicker, and all metal surfaces are covered with padding—all of which absorb energy in a crash. When I was a kid there was a steel bar about teeth high that your face would slam into in the event of an accident.
The seat structure allows it to bend forward when a child is thrown against it. Seats are also positioned no more than two feet apart, which limits the distance a child moves during a crash.
Compartmentalization provides protection in a head-on or rear-end collision, but some experts argue that children can still be tossed side to side during an accident, causing injuries and even death.
When a bus rolls over, for instance, the most common injuries are usually to the head, neck and shoulders.
One solution suggested would be to put extra padding along the sides of the bus interior—over the windows and on the paneling between windows.
Smaller buses—those that weigh less than 10,000 pounds—are required by federal law to have three-point lap/shoulder seat belts. That’s because federal government views smaller buses as similar to automobiles or light trucks, and federal law requires those vehicles to have seat belts.
In 2016, 13 percent (662) of large truck occupants in fatal crashes were not wearing a safety belt, of which 285 (43 percent) were killed in the crash. In contrast, only 307 (8 percent) of the 3,849 large truck occupants wearing safety belts in fatal crashes were killed. Ten percent of the 4,152 drivers of large trucks involved in fatal crashes (396) were not wearing a safety belt at the time of the crash.
In 2016, at least one driver-related factor was recorded for 32 percent of the large truck drivers in fatal crashes, compared to 55 percent of the passenger vehicle drivers in fatal crashes. “Speeding of Any Kind” was the most frequent driver-related factor for drivers of both vehicle types; “Distraction/Inattention” was the second most common for large truck drivers, and “Impairment (Fatigue, Alcohol, Illness, etc.)” was the second most common for passenger vehicle drivers.
Ultimately, many children flying in a plane are required to wear seatbelts that are properly fitted. It would take that type of infrastructure and expectation of safety to change the culture of buses. And unfortunately, the culture of buses is that children are mostly not a concern. Cost and profit reign supreme. Once again, industries put profits over people, even in school bus safety.
Mr. Peel seeks justice for those injured in motorcycle, truck and car accidents, disability and medical malpractice. He often addresses churches, clubs and groups without charge. Mr. Peel may be reached through PeelLawFirm.com wherein other articles may be accessed.