We Finally Know Why Buses Don’t Have Seatbelts

We Finally Know Why Buses Don’t Have Seatbelts


Everywhere you drive, there are constant reminders
to buckle up. That’s what makes it so strange that when
kids get on a school bus, there are no seatbelts to be found. How can that be legal? Here are the details you need to know about
why buses don’t have seatbelts. Parents should breathe a big ol’ sigh of relief
at the fact that, statistically, school buses are the safest vehicles on the road. And it isn’t even close. These things are like yellow tanks, minus
the weaponry. According to the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration, kids are 70 times more likely to get to school safely when they take
the school bus instead of a car. So no matter how much parents brag about their
driving skills, the bus is still a whole lot safer. “This one hit me like a big yellow school
bus.” There are several reasons why buses are so
safe. For one, they’re decked out with neat features
like cross-view mirrors and flashing red lights. Plus, there’s that infamous traffic law regarding
how passing a stopped school bus is akin to throwing your driver’s license into a bonfire. Buses are also heavier than cars, and distribute
crash forces in a different way. The most important feature of all, though,
is something called “compartmentalization.” Basically, this refers to how the seats are
strong, closely spaced, and have raised, energy-absorbing backs. So when kids get flung forward, they safely
bump into the tall seat in front of them, instead of being thrown through a window. To be thorough, it’s not quite accurate to
claim that all school buses don’t have seatbelts. The matter of buses having belts or not, and
whether kids are required to wear them, often depends on what state or town you live in. In fact, a surprising number of states all
require their school buses to be equipped with seatbelts, including New York, New Jersey,
Texas, Nevada, Arkansas, California, Florida, and Louisiana. However, the laws within these states differ
tremendously. For example, a kid in New Jersey is always
required to buckle up, but a New York City pipsqueak can go without. To make matters more confusing, some places
where seatbelts are enshrined in law say that equipping a bus with belts is only really
required if the funding for the belts is provided by the state or school districts. So it’s possible that you could live in a
state that demands seatbelts and yet still see no belts on your child’s bus. While the evidence does mostly show seat belts
as having more safety benefits than defects, there are a few areas where they might actually
hinder student safety, particularly in the case of evacuations. Common sense tells you that if a school bus
gets stuck in a railroad crossing, then it’s easier and faster to rush dozens of kids off
the vehicle if nobody has to fidget with buckles or straps. However, it’s worth noting that despite previous
concerns about slower evacuations, the National Transportation Safety Board went from an anti-seatbelt
stance to a pro-seatbelt one in 2018. They came to this decision after careful analysis
of two deadly 2016 bus crashes. When it comes to getting seatbelts on buses,
money is a major problem. Installing dozens of new seatbelts on every
school bus won’t pay for itself, of course. When assessing the matter in 2007, the United
States Congress found that the cost of adding lap-and-shoulder belts to a large school bus
would range from $8,000 to $15,000 per bus. That’s on top of the $75,000 cost of a new
school bus to begin with, so think of it like a 10 to 20 percent price increase. One study by the University of Alabama found
that phasing in seat belts over the course of a decade could cost $117 million per state. As a result, school districts aren’t necessarily
throwing their wallets down, unless they see strong enough evidence of the safety benefits,
which means seatbelt laws often don’t get passed. So politics is part of the issue here, but
there’s a bigger problem afoot. Some seatbelt opponents don’t oppose belts
per se. Rather, they’re concerned that if states and
school districts were mandated to purchase seat belts, they would cut costs by purchasing
fewer buses altogether. If a school district has less buses, it also
means fewer kids have the safe availability of bus transportation, and that’s not good
for anyone. Another issue raised by congressional debates
on this topic is that installing lap-and-shoulder belts could very likely reduce the seating
capacity on school buses. The average school bus generally fits between
60 and 84 elementary school kids, assuming you can squeeze three kids into a seat, and
thus six in a row. Lap-and-shoulder belt setups take up extra
room, meaning that bus seats would have to be restructured so that there would be three
kids on one side and two on the other, or two on each side. Seating capacity would then be reduced by
about 16 to 33 percent. And buses can’t just become wider, as they
already have to wind through narrow streets and neighborhoods. The obvious solution is to just have more
school buses. But once again, buses are costly. The powers-that-be are worried that if school
districts, strapped for cash, were forced to cough out money on seat belts, they might
just buy fewer buses. This would strand a lot of lower-income students,
leaving them without safe public transportation to school. So ultimately, in certain ways it’s in everyone’s
best interests that buses don’t have belts. “I’ll turn this damn bus around that’ll
end your precious little field trip pretty damn quick, huh?” Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Grunge videos about your favorite
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