Seat Belts Save Lives In School Bus Accidents: Why Don’t All School Buses Have Them?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 50% percent of people killed in accidents were not wearing a seatbelt. Seat belts save lives. The CDC estimates that seat belt use reduces the risk of injury in the event of a car accident by 45% and reduces the risk of serious injury by 50%. Wearing a seat belt reduces the risk that you’ll be jostled around or thrown from a vehicle. 31 states have “primary enforcement” seat belt laws, meaning that officers can pull you over if they see that you are not wearing a seatbelt. 18 states have “secondary enforcement” laws, meaning that officers can cite you for failing to wear a seatbelt if you are seen not wearing one when you are pulled over. New Hampshire is the only state without a seat belt law. Despite the fact that seatbelt laws are prevalent throughout the country, not all school buses are equipped with safety belts.

According to PBS News Hour, many school buses don’t come equipped with safety belts. Buses may not have been updated for many years, and sometimes even new buses don’t come with this basic safety feature. It can be costly for school districts to update their buses to include safety belts. However, what is even more alarming is that in many states, new school buses are not required to come equipped with safety belts. While safety advocates are fighting to change this, in many districts, the bottom line may be considered before students’ safety. Adding seat belts to a new bus can cost an additional $7,000 to $10,000 per bus. Yet, for safety advocates who understand the value of safety belt use, this is a small price to pay for students’ and children’s safety.

In 2015, there was a federal recommendation that all school buses be equipped with safety belts. While riding the school bus remains the safest way that students can get to school, in 2016, six children were killed in school bus accidents. It isn’t clear how many additional injuries or deaths could have been prevented had school buses come equipped with seat belts.

In fact, according to PBS News Hour, only six states currently require safety belts in school buses. In two states, these laws are contingent upon money being allocated to update school buses.

While school buses are designed to protect children in the event of a rear-end or front-end collision, buses are not designed to protect children in a rollover or side-impact collision. Soft, high-backed seats have been found to be adequate protection in the event of a front or rear-end collisions. However, in the event of a rollover or side-impact crash, children would need to be wearing seat belts in order to be adequately protected.

Smaller school buses are already required to have seat belts for children. However, it remains to be seen whether larger buses will be required to have seat belts any time soon. For parents who have lost a child or seen their child get injured in a school bus accident, the fact that children are not required to wear seat belts on school buses is devastating and infuriating.

If your child was injured or killed in a school bus accident, you may have important rights under the law. You may be entitled to seek damages for your child’s medical expenses and pain and suffering. Seat belts are known to save lives, and a school bus accident lawyer may be able to evaluate the factors of your child’s accident to determine whether a seat belt may have protected your child. However, you and your family may only have a limited amount of time to seek damages from the school district. Suing the school district for damages can sometimes be a complex process because it can be more difficult to seek civil damages from a government entity. This is why you need a qualified school bus lawyer on your side. Our skilled personal injury lawyers can work with you to help you seek the justice you may deserve under the law. Our attorneys work hard to raise awareness of safety issues, especially those impacting school-age children. Contact our offices today to discuss your case.