Should Seat Belts On Buses Be Required By Law In California?

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, school buses are one of the safest vehicles on the road. While there are very few deaths caused by bus accidents each year, law makers should take steps to ensure the safety of each child. An accident can seriously impact a life.Recently, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new bill that would require all California school buses to have seatbelts by the year 2035. Although this law does not go into effect for 16 years, there are several good reasons that school bus seat belts should be required by state law.

Don’t Put A Price On Lives

Firstly, the debate about school bus seat belts includes statistics about the low number of accidents. There are just 4-6 deaths caused by school bus accidents each year. Considering the millions of children who ride the bus to school daily, this number is very low. In fact, it represents less than 1% of all traffic fatalities across the nation. However, every life matters. Law makers should not put a price on a single life or handful of lives, especially for children. In an effort to value each child’s life, California is requiring school bus seat belts by law.

Protect Children In Evacuations

In the event of a fire or water emergency, children may have to evacuate the bus quickly. Some law makers believe that seat belts can prevent children from escaping an emergency. However, a fire or water submersion would be the cause of an accident. There are many accidents that lead to fire. As a result, children would have a better chance to evacuate if they are safe in the same spot. Of course, they would be able to unbuckle themselves without assistance if they are using the same seat belt on a daily basis. While the evacuation argument is used frequently, experts recommend seat belts on school buses would save lives.

Improve Behavior On The Bus

Without seat belts, children are free to turn sideways, stand up or lean into the aisles. This allows children to interact easily, but also misbehave easily. Since there is only one bus driver and dozens of kids, it can be difficult to supervise everyone. Naturally, kids are going to talk to friends or pick on each other. However, when children are wearing seat belts, they are less likely to misbehave and sit in their seats properly. Some school districts have reported a 90 percent decrease in write-ups. On top of that, it lowers the chance for bullying either on the way to school or home.

Add Safety For Side And Rollover Accidents

Previously, school buses in California did not require seat belts. Due to the size of the bus and padded seats, children are adequately protected from front or rear collisions. This concept is known as compartmentalization. However, if an accident occurs from the side, this safety measure might be ineffective. In a side or rollover crash, children could be ejected from the bus, creating a high risk of death. In order to prevent this high risk scenario, seat belts would add security for other types of crashes.

According to David Lira, a trial attorney at Girardi | Keese, “77% of all bus fatalities are due to partial or full ejections due to the lack of seatbelts. The NTSB has been recommending seatbelts on motor coaches since 1968. The industry has ignored the NTSB safety recommendations.”

Districts Can Afford Seat Belts On Buses

Costs are one of the major objections to seat belts on buses. However, the costs of seat belts are not that high. Many school districts calculate the costs of buying a new fleet of buses. Of course, this would cost millions of dollars that the school districts might not have available. However, they could just install seat belts on existing buses. This would only cost $7,000-$11,000 per school bus which is relatively more affordable in annual fiscal budget. By signing a seat belt requirement into law, California school districts have plenty of time to buy new buses, upgrade existing ones, or both.

If seat belts were free to install, school districts and bus manufacturers would already have them installed. Most people would agree that buses with seat belts are safer for children. Therefore, we should not put a price on the lives of children. In evacuations, side accidents or rollovers, seat belts could save lives. Moreover, adding seat belts would improve behavior on the bus. Since districts can install seat belts without having to replace an entire bus fleet, they should be mandated to increase their security standards. For these reasons, seat belts should be required by law in the state of California and throughout the nation.