Seat belts have saved countless lives since becoming standard equipment for passenger automobiles in the mid-20th century. Private and public buses, including school buses, have yet to make seat belts standard, although many buses have them.
Research shows that installing seat belts in bus seats can reduce serious injuries and fatalities. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has been recommending that school buses require three-point seat belts at all times. The National Safety Council agrees, but believes such guidelines should apply to all buses—including public transportation systems.
However, some Americans still have questions. If you’ve been wondering why should school buses have seat belts, you might find the information in this post enlightening.
The Current Situation
School buses, municipal buses, and other buses are already designed to minimize harm in the event of an accident. The spacing and cushioning of seats on buses are designed to keep occupants from being flung around in an accident and to absorb force. This approach effectively increases passenger safety in an accident compared to a car, truck, or van.
Buses are very safe—in fact, most injuries and fatalities in crashes involving buses occur in the other vehicles involved in these crashes. It is exceptionally rare for parties on a bus to experience serious injury or death in the same accidents, mostly because buses are larger and heavier and have a more solid frame.
Nevertheless, installing seat belts in buses could help further reduce fatalities and injuries among bus occupants involved in crashes.
About Bus Accidents
A significant minority of bus crashes involve rollovers or ejections from the vehicle. This is the strongest argument for seat belts on buses. Padded seats and smart spacing alone cannot protect against the type of injuries someone may experience if they are thrown against the ceiling, or worse yet, out of a window or door. At that point, the risk comes from the impact itself.
Seat belts can help prevent or mitigate injuries in accidents where buses roll over because they keep the passenger in the seat, rather than allowing them to eject. They can also prevent passengers from being thrown hard against the ceiling or floor, which reduces the risk of head injuries and broken bones.
Arguments Against Seat Belts on School Buses
Despite the evidence for seat belts being a wise choice in buses, there are some arguments against seat belts on school buses. These primarily relate to how much such an endeavor would cost and whether or not the risk is high enough to justify the change in the first place.
Retrofitting buses with seat belts and installing them on new buses does carry some additional cost. A University of Alabama study says that installing seat belts on school buses would add about $8,000 to $15,000 to the cost of a bus. Adding seat belts to public transit and private charter buses would likely have similar costs.
Bus travel is already widely acknowledged as the safest form of land transportation, and some believe this may be enough of an argument against seat belts on school buses all on its own. A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that examined motor coach fatalities between 1996 and 2005 found that, on average, there were only about 14 fatalities in bus accidents each year.
Others believe that 14 fatalities are 14 too many—and they’re right. Adding seat belts to the mix could make bus travel even safer, bringing the loss of life in motorcoach accidents closer to zero.
Legal Debates and Legislation
Just because legislation to make seat belts necessary on buses doesn’t exist now, it doesn’t mean it won’t exist in the future. In fact, in early May of this year, Congress debated this exact topic. So far, there is immense bipartisan support for at least a regulation making three-point seat belts mandatory on school buses. The bill hasn’t yet passed, and it isn’t clear whether it might apply to transportation buses, too, or just school buses.
Suburban Seating & Safety provides truck seating, bus seating, and related products to transportation clients. You can outfit your commercial or education sector bus for safety and comfort with our help. Choose from a wide variety of products, including custom truck seats, truck accessories, bus gear, and specialized seat belts, and ensure the lives you are entrusted with each day are always protected and safe.