We’ve written about this topic in this space before, but in the wake of some particularly horrific school bus crashes across the country that have resulted in fatalities and severe injuries, it bears mentioning again: It’s crazy that all school buses manufactured and sold in the United States aren’t, by law, automatically equipped with lap and shoulder seat belts for riders, and that all riders are not required to buckle those seat belts.
The current rash of violent, deadly collisions involving school buses has prompted the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to speak up in favor of requiring seat belts on all school buses. Currently, the NTSB says, only eight states have such a requirement on the books. The remaining states, Minnesota included, leave it up to school districts to decide if they want seat belts added to the school buses they order from manufacturers. It costs a little more than $10,000, the NTSB estimates, to equip a new school bus with lap and shoulder seat belts.
Are parents, school leaders, safety and transportation officials enclosing themselves in a bubble of denial? When unbelted motorists and their passengers are involved in collisions, even ones that aren’t particularly violent in nature, they risk being thrown around the inside of their vehicle, and possibly even ejected. When that happens, easily avoidable injuries are almost a certainty, and maybe worse. Why would anyone delude themselves into thinking that kids on school buses aren’t going to get tossed around like ragdolls and possibly ejected from the bus in the event of similar collisions? School bus manufacturers have all sorts of safety videos featuring dummies that compare what happens to young occupants in collisions and rollovers when they’re belted and not belted, and there’s no wiggle room when it comes to debating which is the smarter and safer route to go.
Now that the NTSB is speaking out on the subject, maybe now some common-sense solutions can be found. Make the inclusion of seat belts mandatory in all school buses manufacturered and sold, and if it means manufacturers have to raise their price a bit, so be it. If some manufacturers jack up their prices too much, then let the free market and competition penalize them. School districts facing ultra-tight budgets should not have to make the decision to not have seat belts on the buses they buy simply because they need to pinch a few pennies.
Get this done. This is an easy one, the lowest of the low-hanging fruit. People love to call kids on school buses “precious cargo.” Well, if that’s truly the case, then stop treating them like merely cargo.