Should School Busses Have Seat Belts?

A lot of parents may not realize it, but children are extremely safe while riding in school buses. A child is far more likely to be injured in a car crash while their parent drives them to school than they are to be injured while riding the bus to school.

“Once a bus begins rolling down the road, a child is, statistically speaking, safer inside the bus than outside it,” according to USA Today. “Of the 327 school-age children killed in school-transportation-related crashes since 2004, 54 were children riding in buses. Accidents involving these vehicles, NHTSA found, are almost three times as deadly for occupants of the other vehicles,” USA Today reported.

Despite the fact that school bus accidents are very rare in the United States, parents can’t help but wonder, “Wouldn’t my child be safer if they had to wear a seat belt on the bus?” In February 2016, Governing Magazine had this to say: “Only one state follows the new federal recommendation for seat belts in school buses. That could change soon, but money remains an issue.”

Los Angeles School Busses Have Seat Belts

As of February 2016, Los Angeles Unified School District was one of the few districts in America to have seat belts on their school busses, but hopefully more (and more) districts will do the same in the future. In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began recommending that students wear lap and shoulder belts on school busses, but NHTSA did not propose a mandate at that time. A number of state legislators however, do have bills on the books.

In February of 2016, California was the only state to enact a law that required all new busses to be manufactured with lap and shoulder belts. This law was enacted in 2004 and 2005. “There’s not going to be a magic new source of funding,” said Charlie Hood, the executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services. “But we think we’re going to see a lot more conversation and movement in this direction.”

At this point, most of the proposed state laws are calling to have seat belts routinely installed in new school busses. Retrofitting the current busses would not be cost-effective because it usually means the seat frames would have to be replaced, according to Hood.

Governing Magazine reported that South Carolina and West Virginia are among a handful of states that had introduced legislation to strengthen the existing seat belt laws.

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