seat belts in school buses

Most people have ridden a school bus, a public transit bus and a private transportation vehicle like a charter bus. What they all have in common is that they transport a large group of people and don’t have seat belts. Considering that seat belt laws for other types of vehicles have been in place for decades with known life-saving benefits it is a bit surprising that the same never happened for buses.

Why aren’t there seat belt laws for school buses?

The answer is that it would cost school districts $4 billion dollars to retrofit all school buses with seat belts.

Seven states have made seat belts on school buses mandatory but in at least two of them the law will not go into effect until the state has funding available to do the retrofit. At $8,000 per school bus and an estimated 500,000 school buses in the country; the money adds up quickly.

During the last legislative session in Washington, a legislator proposed a requirement for seat belts on school buses. The bill didn’t pass but it could come up again in the future.

Do school buses really need seat belts?

There are plenty of school bus seat belt advocates. Who doesn’t feel a passion for protecting our kids’ safety? With conclusive data showing that seat belts save lives, it can be hard to understand why some argue that adding seat belts to school buses is an unnecessary expense that could even increase traffic deaths. Their argument is based on research that shows that putting seat belts into school buses reduces seating capacity which would force more students to use other forms of transportation to get to school. Even without seat belts school buses are the safest form of transportation so if a student is now riding in a car their risk of being involved in a traffic accident and being injured increases. A NHTSA study on transportation accidents to and from school over a 10 year period found that on average, 625 children are killed each year. Of those children, only four were traveling on a school bus and 490 were car passengers.

How does school bus safety work?

School buses are safe because of a concept called compartmentalization. Compartmentalization is accomplished on school buses by installing tall, padded seats with limited space between rows to increase the chance that kids will remain in their seating area during a crash. While the concept works fairly well for front and rear crashes, it is not particularly effective in side impact or roll-over crashes. For these types of crashes seat belts would likely save a couple of children’s lives each year. With education funding in such short supply, there are serious – if callous – questions to be asked about whether the money it would take to add seat belts to school buses could be better spent elsewhere.

If your child was injured on a school bus, contact a personal injury lawyer today to discuss your legal rights.

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