Should a School Bus Have Seat Belts?
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Below, our knowledgeable bus accident attorneys will thoroughly explain why buses have no seat belts and what California may expect within the next decade with seat belt laws.
Why Don’t School Buses Have Seat Belts?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the costs of installing seat belts could reduce the availability of school buses, which may cause more students to go to school in a passenger car. The organization further goes on by stating that the number of serious or fatal injuries will increase if this occurs.
The NHTSA adds that students are put in a far better position in terms of safety when traveling in a school bus as they are 70 times more likely to arrive at school without the risk of being seriously injured.
Now, how is this possible if seat belts are not equipped in the seats? According to the NHTSA, the seats have been designed to absorb any energy inflicted directly onto it, meaning that the seat will have the ability to absorb the impact of a human body, which will help decrease the severity of injuries.
The NHTSA further goes on to explain that “compartmentalization” is an effective way to protect students in a school bus accident. Through compartmentalization, students do not need to buckle up to reduce the chances of sustaining serious or fatal injuries. Instead, they could use the bus seats as a form of cushion.
However, not all school buses are allowed to operate without a seat belt. Small school buses, with a gross weight under 10,000 pounds and a 16 person or less capacity, must be equipped with lap-shoulder seat belts in each seat available. As the weight and size of a small school bus is much closer to other motor vehicles, lap-shoulder seat belts will help protect students from accidents.
Although the NHTSA firmly believes that school buses do not need seat belts for safety purposes due to costs and a possible decrease in school bus availability, California Gov. Jerry Brown made the decision to approve Assembly Bill 1798. This new law will require every school bus in California to have lap-shoulder seat belts equipped by July 1, 2035.
The passing of AB 1798 surely brings a sense of relief to parents as they can feel more at ease knowing that their children will have accessible seat belts to protect them from potential danger. According to a study conducted by the IMMI, one of the top leading providers of seat belts in the school bus industry, lap-shoulder seat belts can help reduce the likelihood of sustaining serious or fatal injuries by 50 percent.
The process of converting school buses to fit the criteria of the new set standard of what a school bus should offer could take some time. California school districts are given the options of either having their old buses redesigned to accommodate the new bus requirements or purchase new buses that come with seat belts.
How Often Do Fatal School Bus Accidents Occur in the United States?
According to the most recent school bus accident data collected by the NHTSA, from 2007 to 2016, a total of 1,282 victims of all ages were involved in a school-bus related accident, thus averaging 128 fatalities each year.
The NHTSA goes on to mention that within those 9 years, 281 school-age children died in a school bus accident. 58 were in a school bus, 116 were in a passenger car, 98 were pedestrians, 8 were bicyclists, and 1 was a nonoccupant. It was also reported that school-age children were killed two times more in other vehicles compared to those who were traveling in a school bus.
Most of these fatal school bus accidents occurred during 6am to 7am and 3pm to 4pm, which are popular times where children are expected to head to school or get dropped off at home.
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