Nashville school children recently started the school year and some safety advocates say that these children are at risk for personal injury during the commute to and from school. Most large school buses do not have seat belts, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has repeatedly dismissed calls for seat belt use on buses. Some safety advocates say that this sends the wrong message to students and places then at unnecessary risk of harm during a school bus accident.
"From their first ride home from the hospital, they have been secured by a restraining device," said Arthur Yeager of the National Coalition for School Bus Safety. "The very first time kids ever experience a ride without a seat belt is when they get on the school bus."
The NHTSA believes that seat belts are an unnecessary expense for school buses because these large vehicles are among the safest vehicles on the road. In addition to the size of the typical school bus, additional safety features include padded seat backs which absorb the impact of a student during a crash. The NHTSA also noted that those killed in school bus accidents are typically in loading zones or struck by an object which a seat belt wouldn't protect them from.
Yeager disagrees with the agency's analysis and notes that many of the loading zone accidents occur because school bus drivers are distracted by unruly students. Such distractions may be avoided if seat belts are installed on the bus to strap the students in Yeager says.
"It just confirms the long history of NHTSA in opposition to child restraints in school buses," Yeager continued. "There is a certain hypocrisy in their supporting seat belts in virtually every other type of vehicle under their control except for school buses."
Source: Washington Post, "Feds reject request to require seat belts on school buses," Ashley Halsey III, Aug. 25, 2011