The Center for Auto Safety and the National Coalition for School Bus Safety recently petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require seat belts on school buses. The agency’s decision not to act on the request came as a shock to many.
"It just confirms the long history of NHTSA in opposition to child restraints in school buses," Arthur Yeager of the school bus coalition recently told the Washington Post. "There is a certain hypocrisy in their supporting seat belts in virtually every other type of vehicle under their control except for school buses."
NHTSA maintains that large buses are some of the safest vehicles on the road, with a fatality rate six times lower than passenger vehicles. Still, an average of 19 children die each year in bus accidents, 5 while on board and 14 in loading zones.
Because school buses are designed with safety in mind, the high-backed seats are heavily padded and protect passengers in the event of a crash. Experts say that seat belt installation in each bus would ultimately cost each state millions of dollars. Drivers on a strict schedule often have a difficult time enforcing seat belt rules with dozens of young passengers. Despite those difficulties, Texas (TX) and California (CA) already require school bus seat belts.
As a Hampton Roads car accident attorney, I’ve seen plenty of bad traffic accidents, and buses aren’t immune to wrecks. Seat belts, despite their cost and the difficulty of ensuring consistent use, should be considered by our local government for school buses. Our children’s lives are just too precious to risk.
About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.