Why Don’t School Buses Have Seatbelts?

While driving behind a school bus today, watching the apparent elementary-aged, summer-school-goers hop from one seat to the next, bopping each other on the head with fists, standing up in the aisle and, in one kid’s instance, hanging half a body out the window,  I was reminded of a question that intermittently frequents my mind, one I ponder ever time  I also find myself wishing the Bozeman School District had a better bus transportation system:  Why don’t school buses have seat belts?
Turns out, I’m not the only person wondering this.  If you google that very same question (yes, I am using google as a verb, here) you will retrieve no less than 119,000 search results.  I found a decent discussion about the topic here, but am still left feeling unsatisfied with the answers.

Below are excerpts from the discussion referenced above, along with my (admittedly) self-indulgent responses:

“In short…..[the kids] use the seat belts as weapons.

1. They used them as whips, and the metallic latches have proven to be very dangerous to make cuts, puncture eyes and the sort.

2. They use them as strangle devices, putting them around the necks of other children.

3. Is almost impossible to make them use the belts.”

So, is the use of a school system bus seat belt as a whip or a noose not grounds for suspension or expulsion?  Seems to me kids would learn their lesson pretty quick if the first time they were caught weaponizing a seat belt they were kicked out of school for a little while (with all the unsavory consequences that go along with that).

“In many instances seat belts would not have prevented the serious injuries that occurred in school buses. These involve direct intrusion into the bus of an object such as another vehicle or, for example, a steel plate from a passing truck. There are, however, individual instances where seat belts could have prevented injury. They involve rollover, ejection and impact with other passengers or the bus interior.

There are, then, cases where seat belts could enhance safety. The U.S. has installed seat belts in small school buses (less than 4536 kg GVWR) since the mid 1970s. U.S. states New York and New Jersey install seat belts in all buses and Etobicoke in Canada also has them in all buses. New Jersey has specific requirements for seat belt use as well as their installation.

Aside from large pieces of metal or…whole CARS…entering a school bus in a serious (and statistically unlikely) accident, what about the more likely types of injuries that could EASILY occur in a less severe accident?  Such as head and neck injury from whiplash or a child’s head hitting the hard side of the bus…broken arms/legs, etc. from being thrown out of the seat onto the floor, into the hard seat back in front of them or (again) the side of the bus?

“…cost was the first and foremost issue. as it was with air conditioning.”

Hhhhmmm…really?  So, if a school bus were to get in a significantly bad accident and a child were to be thrown from the bus (a good college friend of mine died in an accident having been thrown from a bus…so don’t tell me  it can’t happen) would makers of school buses still say the cost of installing seat belts is too much?  Is the life of a person a lesser cost to pay than a system-wide installation of safety gear?

I guess I just don’t get it.  But, then again, because I don’t get it (and because our system here in Bozeman is set up such that kids of all ages…from kindergartners through high school seniors…ride the same bus to and from town from any given neighborhood)  I will continue to drive my child(ren) to and from school, risking playing the role of an overprotective parent, until something more reasonable comes to fruition.

1 Comment

Filed under Kids, Uncategorized

One response to “Why Don’t School Buses Have Seatbelts?

  1. I never knew they used them as weapons. Lawsuits?

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