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7 Reasons Why School Buses Don’t Have Seat Belts

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School Bus Stop
Photo: Holly Chaffin

As a parent, you send your child off to school each morning on the big yellow bus that stops in front of your house. Have you ever considered the fact that this behemoth with which you entrust your child’s safety doesn’t have seat belts on it?

Why is it that school buses, which carry millions of young children every day, don’t have basic restraints on them?

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Why your child rides unrestrained in the school bus

  1. It’s not required: Federal law dictates that only vehicles under 10,000 pounds are required to have seat belts installed. Above that weight, which most school buses are, there’s no requirement, so why include them if they’re going to raise the cost of buses for schools?
  2. Hard to enforce: Imagine how difficult it is to monitor and enforce the use of seat belts when it involves 30 riotous children and a bus driver who’s busy driving. Because everyone knows expecting this to be done is ludicrous, vehicle designers found other ways to protect children in crashes.
  3. Seat belts work differently: Because of the way that school buses are designed, normal seat belts wouldn’t function the same way in a crash that they do in other vehicles; their presence could potentially cause more harm than good to a body during a crash.
  4. Alternative safety methods: School bus interiors are designed following “compartmentalization,” which packs seats closely together and covers them with energy-absorbing pads. This minimizes their movement upon impact, like eggs in a carton.
  5. Buses travel locally: Very few school buses ever travel on the highway; most are limited to driving local routes where the speed limit is below 45 mph. Collisions on these suburban streets are generally less damaging than high-speed highway accidents.
  6. No seat belts = easier evacuation: If a crash does happen, the absence of seat belts allows for easier access and evacuation of passengers, including when emergency services arrive on the scene.
  7. Buses are safer than other vehicles: Research shows that because of their size and design, school buses are remarkably safe, even compared to normal vehicles. The National Safety Council concluded that they’re 40 times safer than a car; the NHTSA says only six children die in bus crashes per year, far fewer than the amount who die being driven to school by their parents.

What do you think: Is it a good idea for school buses to not offer students the choice to wear a seat belt?

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