December 1, 2010

When you close your eyes and picture a school bus, what do you see? What do you hear? Most people will answer that they see a giant yellow and black vehicle that looks a little like it was designed by a committee. What they hear is the sound of children chatting, laughing and being generally noisy, but in a good way. To the Norman Rockwell generation, school buses are associated with the excitement of seeing friends again after a long summer break, of collapsing into one of those high-backed seats after a game, of getting that first taste of independence from your parents.

The images are shattered when a school bus accident hits the headlines. There are few things as poignant as when a child is injured – or worse. So it’s not surprising that someone who has suffered a loss in such an accident would start asking about how to make buses safer. And that image of kids roaming from seat to seat is in such contrast to the daily routine of strapping kids into car seats in the family van that it’s hard not to wonder why buses don’t have seat belts.

Seat belts save lives in passenger vehicle accidents. Almost two thirds of Americans killed in traffic accidents were not wearing seat belts. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that seat belts save 11,000 lives each year. So what’s the deal with school buses?

Federal law does require seat belts in buses under 10,000 pounds. The average car weighs from 4,000 to 8,000 pounds. Those buses are the small, 6- or 12-seaters. Seat belts are not required in the average, 23,000-pound buses that constitute about 80 percent of the nation’s fleet.

There are good reasons for the difference. If a committee did indeed design the big yellow school buses, it was a safety-minded group of people who knew how to prevent injuries in most school bus accidents.

Continued in our next post.

Source: MSN “Why Your Child’s School Bus Has No Seat Belts” 12/29/10


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