Seat Belts and Buses

MSNBC brings us a story about seat belts and school buses.

Ashley Brown, 16, and Alicia Bonura, 18, both of Beaumont, Texas, died March 29, 2006. They were on a bus carrying their West Brook High School soccer team when it overturned near Devers, Texas, on its way to a playoff game in Humble.

Their friend Allison Forman was among the 21 injured in the bus accident. Allison’s dad, Steve, and Ashley’s dad, Brad think that if the bus had been safer, their children wouldn’t be dead or injured.

So they successfully lobbied for a state law in Texas to mandate seat belts in all school buses. Ashley and Alicia’s Law.

But there aren’t seat belts in the buses. The Texas Education Agency hasn’t put them in because the state legislature has reduced the necessary funding by two thirds.

I feel for Ashley and Alicia’s families. I feel for the teens that were injured and their families. But mandating¬† seat belts in buses isn’t the answer.

As the story states, buses are very safe vehicles. The smaller, special needs buses will have seat belts for two reasons, one is that the smaller buses are categorized like cars and second because special needs students may require a belt or harness to ensure the child stays in his or her seat.

I’ve put children on both types of buses. I’ve ridden on the large buses as an adult, when going on a field trip with my son’s second grade class.¬† The article correctly describes the seats and arrangement of the seats on a school bus. The article also brings these statistics:

About 440,000 public school buses carry 24 million children more than 4.3 billion miles a year, but only about six children die each year in bus accidents, according to annual statistics compiled the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. About 800 children, by contrast, die every year walking, biking or being driven to school in cars or other passenger vehicles, said Ron Medford, the agency’s deputy director.

Adding seat belts to buses could cost anywhere from $8,000 to $15,000 per bus and belts don’t work on buses the way they do in cars. Even seat belts in cars don’t work for children the way they do for adults which is why car seats are mandated for children.

Even on municipal buses, which don’t have the seating arrangement or padding of school buses, one doesn’t think twice about the fact that there is no seat belt.

So, while I am sorry about the loss of life and injuries in that bus accident, the costs far outweigh the benefits.

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