Friday, February 11, 2011

Why Don't School Buses Have Seatbelts?

Posted by: Cohen & Kuvin
February 09, 2011
Topic: Seatbelt Safety

Every year vehicles are manufactured boasting innovative features and safeguards designed to protect drivers and passengers. Yet, we have seen very little innovation in school bus safety, starting with the absence of seatbelts.

There are a host of studies that claim school buses are one of the safest modes of transportation, so federal law only requires seatbelts in buses under 10,000 pounds. However, 80% of the nations' school bus fleet exceeds that weight limit, and in those cases, the decision to provide seatbelts is up to the individual states.

Current safety standards in schools buses are characterized by compartmentalization, a system of tightly spaced seats covered with 4-inch-thick foam to form a protective bubble. The high seat backs also serve as a buffer to prevent a child from being launched in the air.

The reality is that installing seatbelts in every school bus is extremely cost prohibitive and may pose another hazard of kids whacking each other with the straps. Further, who is to say that fidgety kids will wear the belt, and who is responsible for enforcing them?

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an average of 7 school-age passengers are killed in school bus crashes each year. These numbers make it difficult to justify a $117 million per state price tag. In fact, NHTSA said its research suggests that the benefits are "insufficient to justify a federal requirement for mandatory installation of such belts" in larger buses.

Florida is one of 6 states that now requires seat belts or another restraint system that meets federal standards on newer buses and requires passengers to use them. For now, the best tip for a safe ride is encouraging children to practice good safety etiquette on the bus including: remaining seated during the entire bus ride or until the driver says otherwise, keeping aisles clear of backpacks and belongings, talking quietly and politely and always following the driver's directions during an emergency.

- Spencer Kuvin
Cohen & Kuvin, P.A.

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