Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Why Don't School Buses Have Seat Belts?

How come children on school buses don't need to buckle up? I couldn't leave the birth center without a car seat for my infant. I struggle to get my 3 year old to leave her belt buckled. We stress safety...but when my 5 year old gets on the bus to go to school for the first time, he learns that he doesn't always need to buckle up. We're sending our children mixed signals. Mine in particular are confused. They actually unbuckle as soon as we pull into our neighborhood and say, "we don't have to wear our seat belts as soon as we pass the mailbox." And I'm left wondering where they got that impression and trying to get them back in their seats.

If seat belts truly save so many lives (and I believe they do), then it's time to apply the seat belt laws across the board. My kids spend more time on the school bus than in my car. Busses should be equipped with safety belts and children secured.

The anti-seat-belts-on-school-buses crowd says buses are safer than cars. They're big. They're yellow. They have better crash rates. Bus drivers are also supposed to focus on driving rather than making kids buckle up. Plus it'd be too expensive to put seat belts into buses. Ehem. Really? That's a lame argument. Just ask any parent who's lost a child.

The pro-seat-belts-on-school-buses crowd says those crash rates are misleading. Most serious crashes happen at night and on weekends, as well as during the months of July and August. School buses usually don't operate during those times and private vehicles do. Thus the numbers don't give a fair comparison. Dr. Arthur Yeager has made it his life's work to change the status quo. His argument to install school bus seatbelts is quite convincing. Compartmentalizing children in thickly padded high back seats does nothing to cushion kids from side impact and roll-over collisions. It only works if the kid stays in the compartment. Like they do when wearing a seat belt.

About 20 years ago, New Jersey mandated that all new school buses be equipped with seat belts. It turns out that having kids buckle up reduced behavior problems...and bus drivers spent more time focusing on the driving task and less time disciplining. I find the same thing is true when my kids aren't crawling over seats and kicking their siblings while I'm driving.

So, back to the main question. Why don't school buses have seat belts? Because we haven't banded together to make it happen. Consider visiting the National Coalition for School Bus Safety's website and joining their cause. That or drive your kids to school every day. Just take into consideration that one is easier to do than the other.


  1. Bridget this has actually been my argument for why the government is hell bent on making revenue on individuals forgetting to buckle up...while state operated vehicals... (Like Commuter Trains and ALL BUSES- not just school buses)Get away with no belts at all. Did you know in some states if the driver gets in an accident and doesn't have their seat belt can be denied by insurance? But if a DRUNK driver is buckled up, well... sure... he was safety conscience and covered for being a good driver wearing his seat belt.... It is a crazy BACKWARDS world we live in. I come from a generation where we slept on the floor and used the bump in the middle for our head rest when we were kids.
    I am actually a stronger believer in freedom then forced compliance, but in this case, if it is good for the geese, then it is good for the gander. My only problem is... the so called COSTS of retrofitting the buses...will get paid by the tax payers anyway, which brings about a more important question... why are costs even an issue if they will just raise property taxes to the district to cover the change?...

    1. I, too, don't like the forced compliance. Natural selection does a pretty good job of weeding people out. Maybe that's not funny.

      At a minimum, I'd like to see all new buses equipped with seat belts. That's a manageable cost. It actually baffles me why taxpayers pay for bus service, at all. When I was an exchange student in France, I paid for a bus pass and took a city bus to high school. And there were tons of buses running, so it was convenient. It'd probably be cheaper for the districts to have a van-share program for many neighborhoods. Each parent gets a week or two when they get to drive the 15 passenger van to school...what do you think?

  2. Well what I think is negligible on the scale of all things...I guess I think it depends on the area...for instance where I live...the only road to any school along this.lake is a major Highway. There is no other is curvy on a lake... Semi trucks carrying chemicals not safe for the freeway get rerouted here...there is no sidewalks and , there is no public transportation or buses in the city let alone to the schools. the 9 schools in my city... With aprox 12,000 students are all 100% bussed... Most people here have six or more kids each so a 15 passenger van would cover maybe two mind the fact that it is spread over three three different areas. High school, Jr high, and elementary, sometimes one if the kids goes to the special school for autism in the city one van goes to four locations covered by two of which works full time probably wouldn't work in my town. But then it isn't uncommen here to have 600 kids in one primary and 100 teens in one youth program ward here...(as the kids age...I am sure 600 youth will be a challenge just getting them all to youth conference!) :)

  3. Interesting! I just completed a thesis about the topic! Are students as passengers on large school buses at risk of injury or death because there is no requirement or law. I also started a blog to generate dialogue about the issue. Feel free to join in!


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