Why Don’t All States Require Seat Belts on School Buses?

Elementary school kids climbing on to a school bus

Seat belts have been made mandatory on all passenger cars after 1968. All the states have required that passengers of light trucks and passenger cards use seat belts.

The fact cannot be denied that seat belts play an important role in ensuring the safety of passengers of small vehicles. But seat belts on large buses are not necessary according to the National Highway Transport Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Are Seat Belts Necessary on School Buses?

Criticism for Seat Belts on School Buses

A number of states have passed laws that have made seat belts mandatory on school buses. But some question whether seat belts are really necessary on large school buses. They present the point that large school buses are safer since they are fitted with closely spaced seats offering crash protection. As a result, students will remain safe even when not wearing a seatbelt.

This is the reason that previously NHTSA did not recommend seat belts on school buses that weighed more than 10,000 pounds.

Design of School Buses

Critics of school bus seat belt laws state that compartmentalization offers the best protection to children in the event of a crash. The national highway safety authority has stated that large buses are able to distribute forces during a crash differently as compared to smaller vehicles like vans, trucks, and passenger cars. Due to this, the passenger doesn’t experience a great force in the event of a collision.

Due to the specific design of large school buses, the passengers don’t really need to buckle up in the event of a crash. The seat belts are also designed to be high energy-absorbing that provides protection to passengers.

Laws for Protection of School Children

Another reason not all states require seat belts is that there are laws to protect students who get on and off a school bus. For instance, drivers are not allowed to pass a school bus that is picking up or dropping off the kids. This is true regardless of what direction a vehicle approaches the bus.

Cost Prohibitive

One of the biggest reasons that seat belts are not made mandatory on school buses is the fact that it can be costly to implement. The costs of implementing seat belts can amount to more than $100 million. This is a large sum that cannot be raised easily by school districts.

Reduced Capacity

Yet another threat posed by installation of seat belts on school buses is limited availability of seats. The students may be forced to take another mode of transportation that can be more dangerous as compared to riding a school bus.

Proponents of Seat Belts on School Buses

A number of people believe that seat belts are mandatory and that state legislators should introduce them to ensure the safety of kids. Here are some of the arguments presented by the proponents of school bus seat belts.

Critical in Roll Over Accident

One of the main benefits of seat belts is that they can protect students in the event of a rollover accident. Compartmentalization may offer better protection for passengers in case of a head-on collision. But the design won’t offer protection in the case of a rollover accident.

In other words, compartmentalization cited by NHTSA fails when it comes to serious accidents. The benefits of the three-point restraint system become evident as they prevent head injuries such as broken bones.

Better Behaved Students

Another benefit cited for seat belts on school buses is that it leads to more behaved students. Children tend to get rowdy when on the bus. They make a commotion turning their head backward talking to others and walking the aisle.

When seat belts are introduced on school buses, children will become more behaved. They will not make a commotion on the bus. Introducing seat belts results in increased discipline among school kids.

There will be reduced bullying as well when seat belts are required to be worn at all times when riding a bus. Enforcing seat belts laws will make a big difference in reducing bullying.

Increased Focus on the Road

When seat belts are made mandatory on school buses, children will be less likely to make a ruckus inside the bus. This will allow the drivers to focus on the road ahead thereby reducing the chances of a serious accident. The drivers will also be more satisfied with the job resulting in fewer turnovers.

Easy to Use for Kids

Seat belts are easy to use by the kids. Students can adjust the sliding shoulder latch of a three-point seat belt. They can adjust the seat belt to ensure that it fits comfortably.

Seat Belts on Small School Buses

The NHTSA had recommended seat belts to be mandatory on small buses that are less than 10,000 pounds. The school buses must be equipped with seats that have either a lap or shoulder belt. This is because the size and weight of school buses don’t offer protection similar to large buses.

Small school buses don’t offer protection to children similar to large school buses. The weight and size of small buses are similar to vans and trucks due to which better protection is required for the passengers. As a result, seat belts are required on small buses on all states in the US.

Key Takeaway

Seat belts on large buses are not required on every state since they are not deemed necessary. Only eight states have passed laws making seat belts mandatory on large school buses. Most state legislatures think that seat belts would unnecessarily cause cost burdens for local schools.

But the fact cannot be denied that seat belts do indeed help enhance the safety of kids in rollover collisions. They also provide other benefits due to which they should be introduced in school buses. Due to the increased importance of seat belts, NHTSA took a U-turn and made the announcement that seat belts should be mandatory on all buses in 2015.

Has your child been involved in a school bus accident? If so, you should contact a professional school bus attorney to handle the case for you.