The high seats on school buses are designed to absorb the impact of a motor vehicle collision. These design features are installed on buses to offset the risks associated with passengers not wearing safety belts. One reason safety belts are not mandated across all school districts is the high cost of adding seat belts to school buses.
While some people believe adding seat belts to school buses would save lives, many school districts believe that seatbelts are an unnecessary cost that may actually harm students in the long run. These districts believe that seat belts would slow down the loading and unloading process, which may make students less safe. In addition, some districts believe that the already long transportation times would increase if drivers had to confirm seat belts were being used.
Lastly, students might use safety belts as weapons to harass or injure fellow students. Many students also do not keep their safety belts fastened on school buses. Students may unbuckle their safety belts without alerting the bus driver or other guardian on board the bus. Students may also not be able to evacuate a bus in the event of an emergency. If a school bus is aflame and students cannot unbuckle their safety belts, this might impose a greater risk of bodily injury or death on the students.
Eight states, including Arkansas, Florida, New York, Texas, Nevada, Louisiana, and New Jersey, have passed school bus seat belt laws. Buses that are under 10,000 pounds must be equipped with shoulder belts. Most school buses exceed this weight limit, and thus seat belts are not required.
The National Transportation Safety Board estimates that adding safety belts to school buses would cost between approximately $7,000 and $10,300 per school bus. Also, the passenger capacity of each bus must be reduced if safety belts are installed. Installing safety belts requires thicker seats and fewer rows of seats. These factors are two main reasons why only a few states require that school buses have safety belts.
Seats on school buses are cushioned and situated together to prevent passengers from suffering a severe bodily injury during an accident. Buses are 40 times safer than average family cars, according to the National Safety Council, but seat belts do reduce the risk of serious injury to passengers in other vehicles.
Every parent understands that children should always wear their seat belts. Indiana law requires all children under the age of 16 to wear a seat belt, and children under the age of 8 must be strapped in with a car seat or booster seat. Given these precautions taken to protect children in vehicles, many people wonder why school buses are not equipped with these life-saving devices.
School buses traditionally have been an exception to the seat belt rule. So far, only six states require school buses to have seat belts and Indiana is not among them. However, some Indiana counties are rethinking the traditional rule and are researching the costs and benefits of adding seat belts to school buses over the coming school year.
First, the Westfield-Washington School District in Hamilton County will be implementing a pilot program this summer. As part of that program, six of the district’s school buses will be equipped with seat belts. During the following school year, these buses will be the primary buses sent on long-distance field trips. The program will cost the school district $25,000 over the next three years.
To the southwest, the Vigo County School Corporation serving Terre Haute and the surrounding area has also begun researching the issue. The school district recently approved the purchase of 16 new buses without seat belts for around $120,000 each. Adding seat belts to the buses would be an additional cost of $14,000 and the school district has promised to research whether the addition is necessary and cost-effective.
School bus fatalities are quite rare. Millions of students travel on school buses every year, but only a few fatalities occur annually. You or your child are statistically more likely to suffer serious bodily injury or death during a motor vehicle collision involving smaller vehicles. However, parents should educate their children about best practices while riding on school buses. State and federal laws may change, and parents should also stay up to date on any pending legislation that may affect safety belt requirements for school buses.
Blackburn Romey Personal Injury Lawyers have experience representing people who suffered serious bodily injuries during bus crashes. Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation. We can discuss the facts of your case and help you understand which parties may be liable for your injuries.
If you or a loved one suffered a severe bodily injury on a school bus, it is important that you retain a bus accident attorney. Retaining legal representation will enable you to have a professional on your side who can help you determine which parties may be liable for you or your loved one’s injuries. The negligent driver, school district, and other parties may be liable for the injuries affecting you and your loved ones.