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John Demas
John Demas
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Should Seatbelts Be Required on Buses?

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For years, our roadways in California have been dotted with signs reminding drivers to “Click It or Ticket”. For much longer, highway safety agencies and advocacy groups have been pushing seat belt use as one of the most effective ways to prevent injury and death in auto accidents. On a national level, seat belts have been required equipment in passenger cars since 1968.

So it is a bit alarming that there is one place where seat belts aren’t legally required on a national level: school buses. Every day, thousands of children board a school bus to get to school and—despite our best attempts to teach them to always use a seat belt—on this daily form of transportation there are no safety belts in sight. Instead, for decades, school bus safety has been built around a concept known as “compartmentalization” to keep our kids safe—in other words, the use of high, padded seat backs that keep kids “compartmentalized” in the event of crash. According to NHTSA, combined with the size and weight of school buses, “compartmentalization” has proven effective at protecting school bus passengers.

But certainly there would be no harm in also installing seat belts? Particularly given how they have been heralded as such an effective safety device in car accidents? Thankfully, in California, students who ride school buses have the benefit of both compartmentalization and seat belts. According to California’s Vehicle Code, school buses that carry more than 16 passengers and manufactured after 2005 and school buses that carry fewer than 16 passengers and manufactured after 2004 are required to have passenger restraint systems.

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    The NHTSA findings are based on a comparison of injuries/fatalities in buses as compared to cars (apples and oranges). I’ve been debating with them for years that one preventable death is one too many. And, when there is a school-bus accident, there are many victims, with little ones being thrown around inside (and outside) their “compartment!” Right now, in Indianapolis, a family is grieving the loss of their five-year-old who was killed in a school-bus accident. They have filed a lawsuit. I understand that the decision to install seat belts is made within each state, and here in IN the cost is the main factor. I can tell you from personal experience that to a grieving family the cost of one child’s life is much higher than the NHTSA’s evaluation. My grandson died in a different type of accident, but his death could have been prevented. See my web site for details. Thanks so much.

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    Definitely, seat belt is very important for the safe journey. Everyone should use seat belt for the safety. Nice blog!