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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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School Bus Seat Belt Debate

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This week, an estimated 500,000 public school buses in the U.S. will transport children to/from school. The Center for Auto Safety and the National Coalition for School Bus Safety hoped this year would bring increased safety for school children, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) once again rejected a petition to mandate seatbelts on all school buses.

NHTSA rejected the petition because it believes such a decision should be left to State and local jurisdictions. It said the claims to support a federal rule raised nothing new since the issue was raised three years ago. The agency said large school buses are among the safest modes of transportation with a fatality rate six times lower that passenger vehicles; on average, 19 school children die each year in bus-related accidents, five of them while aboard buses and 14 in bus loading zones. Isn’t that 19 too many? Why is NHTSA measuring only deaths? What about all the injuries that could have been prevented by seat belt usage?

Federal safety experts view larger buses safe because of their design – high-back seats padded front and back and the distance between the rows of seats is kept tight. In the event of a front-impact crash, riders would be projected forwarded into a cushioned seat back that is designed to collapse under their weight and absorb the impact. Does your child’s head being projected into a seat, padded or not, seem reasonable to you as a parent? What about side impacts or the bus going off the road and rolling down an embankment? There is nothing to secure the children from bouncing all over the bus or even being projected outside. This does happen! Then there are driver distractions? How often do you see, or hear, about children jumping up and down on the bus or changing seats with another passenger while the bus is in motion?

Every other vehicle on the road is equipped with seatbelts. Beginning when a baby is brought home from the hospital, he/she is secured in a vehicle. We spend years teaching our children about the importance of seat belts, yet the first time we put our little ones on a school bus the rules we have instilled for years suddenly change. Why is it when our kids start school we decide it is okay to let them take their first unprotected ride, and continue to do so for many years to come? At that point, how effective can we be at enforcing the use of seatbelts in our own vehicles when we send them on the school bus without them?

Why do we have laws requiring us to buckle our seat belts in passenger vehicles, but there are no requirements for seat belts on school buses? The real fact-of-the-matter is that NHTSA is more concerned with M-O-N-E-Y! A 2002 report said that shoulder-lap belts are effective in reducing school bus fatalities, but the addition of the belts are estimated at $5,485 – $7,346 per bus. Sadly, money is once again put before the safety of our children. All kids need our protection, whether our own or not.

What do you think; should seatbelts be required on all school buses?

If your child’s school bus does not have seatbelts, teach them important safety before the first ride.

· Stand at least ten feet from the curb while waiting for the bus. Wait until the bus comes to a complete stop and the driver advises it is safe to board.

· Listen to the driver; follow directions.

  • Stay in your seat
  • Keep the noise level down
  • Keep head, hands, and feet inside the bus, and don’t throw things inside the bus or out the windows

· Don’t try to pick up something that you dropped underneath the bus.

Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder ofLawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide cash flow solutions and litigation funding consulting when necessities of life funding is needed during personal injury litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

1 Comment

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  1. Mike Bryant says:
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    Great advice and a very important issue for people to be talking about. I know drivers are always concerned about the liability for kids that aren’t buckled up, but seems like the dangers outweigh the concerns. We have a whole new generation that is always buckled up and need to be protected.