School Buses and the Lack of Seatbelts

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 amount 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. Safety agencies have found that seat belts, lap and shoulder straps, in buses are misused and the misuse can lead to serious neck injury and abdominal injury.

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