TODAY aired a segment this morning, 8/20/2019, on crash tests that are being conducted to show the urgency of the much-debated installation of seat belts in school buses to protect our children. Believe it or not, most states do not require seat belts on school buses and accidents keep happening. Experts say seat belts can make all the difference in life and death. Crash tests show the trauma caused when a bus is involved in an accident.
The issue is how do we make school transportation safer? Right now, thousands of children are riding on buses unrestrained. So why don’t most buses have seat belts? It always comes down to money. The average price per bus would be between $7000-$10,000 per bus.
We all remember the deadly school bus crash in Chattanooga, Tennessee, (11-16) that killed five elementary school students and injured 24 others. Since then, there are renewed calls for seat belts on school buses.
TODAY showed a demonstration of just how dangerous a bus can get when a simple sudden stop occurs on a bus loaded with children. A small child’s weight prevents their ability to control any type trauma.
The US National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA), one of the most influential government agencies when it comes to public safety on roadways, has stated that current school buses are among the safest forms of transportation available. After studying the results of crashes involving these buses, the NHTSA stated that there was no compelling reason to believe the use of seat belts should be federally mandated. Most accidents were either frontal or rear collisions, which means that passengers were protected by a safety feature called compartmentalization.
Compartmentalization is a concept that involves seating passengers in rows of padded seats with cushioned backs. The belief is that during a frontal or rear impact, the most common types of wrecks involving school buses, passengers would either be pushed back into their seats or thrown forward into the padded backs of the row ahead.
The use of seat belts might require stiffer seats, which would negate the theory of compartmentalization. It is also feared that some students would receive internal injuries from the belts through a process called submarining, the tendency for a body to slide downwards during impact.
Seat belts could also hamper rescue or evacuation efforts, as adults or older students may have to spend precious minutes unbuckling young or disoriented passengers. Unruly students could also use the heavy buckles as makeshift weapons, creating even more of a safety hazard. There is also the argument that seat belts would only protect passengers during unusual events, such as roll-overs or flips, not other possible accidents such as fires or submersion.
Considering the expense of retrofitting current school buses or replacing entire fleets with approved seat belt systems, the benefits do not currently outweigh the liabilities.
- One problem many school systems face the prospect of mandatory seat belt use on school buses is compliance.
- Schools would have to hire additional monitors to ride on all the buses.
- In light of sexual misconduct concerns, both male and female monitors would have to be hired in order to avoid any allegations of impropriety.
- Besides the added expense of hiring qualified monitors, there would also be a question of liability if even one student removed his or her belt and became injured as a result.
“While school buses are built to keep students safe, lap-shoulder seat belts provide greater protection against injuries in the rare event of an accident,” said Brooke Axiotis, president of the Iowa State Board of Education.
Serious school bus accidents are incredibly rare. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports between 2007 and 2016, there were fewer than 1,200 fatal accidents nationwide involving school buses. This is less than half a percent of all crashes. A majority of those deaths weren’t of the children on the bus, but of the driver and passengers of the other vehicle involved.
Ref. NBC/Today, wisegeek.org, edmunds.com, kwwl.com
Photo courtesy of Bing via blog.al.com