The lack of seatbelts on school buses is becoming a major problem. Not only are children being injured in rollovers, but they are also being injured in accidents caused by defective seatbelts. Parents across the country have been notified about the recent recall of seatbelts by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). What does this mean for you as a bus passenger?
When you travel with school buses, whether they are operated by a for profit company or are privately owned, it is your legal responsibility to protect yourself from harm. You should know that school buses have rolled over seats, known as "teeter totter" hazard signs, which are designed to be misread by motorists. If a motorist is struck by an improperly installed seatbelt, even if the seat belt has been properly removed, there is a strong chance that the injury will be classified as serious and could lead to permanent paralysis or death.
No matter what type of school buses you are using, it is absolutely critical that all passengers wear seatbelts. These laws were put into place so that children would be as safe as possible when riding in school buses. Not only do seatbelts provide extra protection, they are also required by law in many states including New Jersey. It may not seem like a big deal when you are out in public places with school buses, but the fact of the matter is that children can get seriously injured by being improperly restrained in a moving vehicle. This is why it is important to always follow the law and always ensure that your child is properly restrained in school buses.
Most school buses in the United States do not have seat belts. The reason is because under federal law the majority of school buses are not required to have seat belts. But if seat belts are required in cars for safety reasons, why would seat belts not be required in school buses? The answer is for safety and cost reasons and at first it seems counterintuitive. Despite the size of a bus, a school bus passenger is less likely to get into a car or truck accident than someone riding in a car.
Under Federal law, buses less than 10,000 pounds are required to have seat belts but the law only affects a small number of school buses. The vast majority of school buses are the stereotypical big yellow school bus that many of us used to get to school. Those buses are not regulated by the federal law and any further seat belt regulation is left to state law. Only six states require big yellow school buses to use seat belts. Why?
According to many safety studies, school buses are the safest form of ground transportation, and according to the National Safety Council school buses are around 40 times safer than a car. Every year around 800 children die in car, biking or pedestrian accidents. In comparison, only six children die annually in school bus accidents. School buses are safer than cars because of the way they are designed.
School buses use a safety design called compartmentalization which positions seats closely together and covers them with protective foam. The design provides a protective bubble where seat belts become a greater risk to safety than in other forms of ground transportation. According to an Orlando spine surgeon, seat belts, lap and shoulder straps, in buses are misused and the misuse can lead to serious neck injury and abdominal injury.