Safety on School Buses: Are Seat Belts Required?
Do Seat belts Make Buses Safer?
Seat belts protect drivers and passengers from further injuries in the event of a car accident. These devices have saved people from crashing through windshields, smashing into a car’s dashboard, and other injuries. They prevent the deaths of thousands of Americans every year, but there is one surprising vehicle that doesn’t always supply them: school buses.
One of the many purposes of seat belts is to protect children, and their smaller bodies, from further damage during car crashes, so one would think that a vehicle that exclusively carries children would require them. However, many states do not require school buses to equip students with seat belts.
Why don’t school buses have mandatory seatbelt requirements? The short answer is that school buses are designed to be safer than other motor vehicles and not as many children die from bus accidents as they do from car accidents. However, a small number of children do pass away every year in school bus accidents.
School Bus Seatbelt Laws
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), school buses are the safest mode of transportation for children. Engineers design these buses for optimal safety, utilizing a design theory called “compartmentalization.” Closely spaced, high, energy-absorbing seats protect children in the event of an accident, reducing the number of children killed in school bus crashes annually.
Only eight states have laws regarding seatbelt installation on school buses: California, Nevada, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Florida, New York, and New Jersey. Seven out of these eight states require seat belts to be installed on all large school buses. Arkansas requires both seat belts and stop-arm cameras be installed on large school buses, protecting children inside and outside of the bus.
The other 42 states do not have any laws on the books requiring seat belts on school buses. While Louisiana does have a school bus seatbelt law, its legislature has not appropriated funding to purchase these buses. The average cost of equipping a large school bus with seat belts is between $7,346 and $10,296 – a steep price tag that not all states, schools, and school districts are able to pay.
California Seatbelt Safety Laws
In the state of California, manufacturers must install three-point seat belts on school buses that:
- Were manufactured on or after July 1st, 2005 and carry more than 16 passengers
- Were manufactured on or after July 1st, 2004
Elementary school students receive first priority for seatbelt-equipped buses. While passengers are told to wear these seat belts, the state cannot charge any person, school, or organization for violating this law if students choose not to comply.
School Bus Crash Statistics
Over 2,000 children die in motor vehicle accidents every year. In contrast, only six children die per year as a result of a school bus accident, according to the NHTSA. This miniscule number is sufficient for many states to not require seatbelts on their buses. However, the NHTSA argues that the installation of three-point seatbelts would reduce the number of children killed annually from six to as low as two.
However, accidents can happen at any time, anywhere, and to anyone, including on school buses. Six lives are lost every year due to accidents involving these buses. Many more children may suffer injuries on a school bus as well. The effects of these accidents can have lifelong impacts on children and parents alike. If a school bus accident injured you or your child, you deserve to recover damages equal to your financial, physical, and emotional losses.