Seat belts are put into every passenger car and have been for years. Safety instructors constantly talk about how important they are. When you have a baby, some hospitals give entire classes on how to hook car seats up to these belts to keep the child safe.
But then, when children pile into school buses, there often aren’t any belts at all. There are hundreds of thousands of buses, millions of children, and they all go to and from school for two-thirds of the year. Does it make sense to put belts on buses?
People have been debating this now for four decades. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration considered making them mandatory back in 2011, and yet they didn’t. In fact, they decided that there would probably be more fatalities every year if belts were in place.
However, in 2015, the NHTSA came out with a new ruling, saying that belts on buses probably were a good idea. They weren’t made mandatory, but the NHTSA left it up to the local governments, which have been considering it. The vast majority still don’t use belts, but some have made the change.
So, what is best? It all depends who you ask. Some have argued that displacement could lead to more deaths. In short, not as many students would fit on the buses, so more kids would end up walking or riding bikes, which is less safe than riding on a bus. The new ruling implies that the NHTSA is only concerned with the buses themselves and thinks that the students who do fit would be safer.
Either way, parents must know their rights when their children are hurt or killed in school bus accidents. Though uncommon traditionally, it will be interesting to see how shifting laws impact the frequency of these incidents.
Source: US News, “The Illusion of Safety,” Richard Williams, accessed Oct. 21, 2016