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Monday, March 20, 2006

Seat belts on school buses?

Should school buses have seat belts? Currently, New York and New Jersey require them, but other states don’t, with many believing school buses are better without them. The high seat backs on buses prevent children from being thrown great distances in accidents and impact absorbing materials soften the blow. “School buses are heavier, experience less crash factors and distribute crash forces differently than passenger cars and light trucks,” says The National Highway Traffic Safety Association. “Because of this, the crash force experienced by passengers of large buses is much less that that experienced by occupants of passenger cars.”

The National Coalition for Seatbelts on School Buses supports the installation of seat belts on school buses to reduce the probability of death and serious injury during crashes and rollovers. It also believes seat belt use improves passenger behavior and reduces driver distractions.

In a recent accident, 18 North Carolina preschoolers were saved by the safety seats they were wearing that were required by Head Start. When their bus rolled over, they children stayed securely in their seats and avoided harm. “The restraint worked, it kept them from pinballing around inside the bus and hitting something,” an ambulance service spokesman said.

This accident took place in a smaller school bus, less than 10,000 pounds, where seat belts are required. Similar safety restraints could reduce injuries in full size buses, too.