Differing views on seat belts in school buses in Tennessee

There are differing views regarding seat belts on school buses in the state of Tennessee even after a fatal accident took the lives of six elementary school children in November.

The most recent data from the Tennessee Department of Education shows that just one out of every five buses of close to 9,000 across the state had seat belts as of the 2014-2015 school year.

"It doesn't make any sense to buckle children up when they are in our personal vehicles and not offer them the same level of safety when they get on the school bus," a statement from the National Safety Council said. "Children deserve total safety coverage, no matter where they are riding."

Ironically, about six children die per year across the country, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The National Safety Council also claims that school bus transportation is 40 percent safer than traditional vehicles.

The six children killed in the November accident were on a school bus that wrapped around a utility pole. A lawsuit filed in federal court on Dec. 21 alleges that some people called for seat belts in buses prior to the accident. The lawsuit also claims that the driver of the bus had 'sadistic' behaviors behind the wheel.

The driver would purportedly slam on the brakes in order to punish the children if they were misbehaving.

Multiple people have spoken out against seat belts in school buses, including the Texas Transportation Institute of Texas A&M University, claiming that asking bus drivers to monitor compliance is unrealistic.

A study done by the University of Alabama concluded that some drivers would be worried they could be held liable if a child is injured or killed in an accident and wasn't wearing their seat belt.

The NHTSA released a statement that said, "Lap/shoulder belts can be misused and NHTSA's testing showed that serious neck injury and perhaps abdominal injury could result when lap/shoulder belts are misused. Increased capital costs, reduced seating capacities, and other unintended consequences associated with lap/shoulder belts could result in more children seeking alternative means of traveling to and from school."

A Tennessee state representative is working to mandate seat belts in school buses following the November accident.

An experienced auto defects attorney in Nashville, Tennessee, can help you understand your rights following a school bus accident.

Source: Kingsport Times-News, "Views on mandatory school bus seat belts mixed," Rick Wagner, Dec. 26, 2016

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