Schoolchildren in Baton Rouge and around the country ride on school buses every day without incident but some safety advocates warn that school buses are unnecessarily dangerous. Most standard size school buses do not have seat belts and safety experts say that this exposes children to a risk of personal injury in the event of a bus accident.
"From their first ride home from the hospital, they have been secured by a restraining device," 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 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that the lack of seat belts on buses is not a problem because school buses are among the safest vehicles on the road. The agency recently denied a petition to mandate seat belts on buses nationwide.
"It just confirms the long history of NHTSA in opposition to child restraints in school buses," said Yeager. "There is a certain hypocrisy in their supporting seat belts in virtually every other type of vehicle under their control except for school buses."
According to the NHTSA, school buses have a fatality rate that is six times lower than that of passenger cars and on average only 19 students die in bus related accidents every year. Of these 19, approximately 14 of the students die in bus loading zones. The NHTSA says that seat belt use will not prevent the majority of the deaths that do occur inside buses because those deaths are the result of an object or vehicle directly hitting the student.
Source: Washington Post, "Feds reject request to require seat belts on school buses," Ashley Halsey III, Aug. 25, 2011