We didn’t always have seat belts. Baby boomers will remember a time when children road on “the hump” or in the back window. Eventually, seatbelts were no longer an optional accessory and they became mandatory in all cars and trucks … then shoulder straps … then car seats. Now, in many places there are laws about how tall a child must be or how much they must weigh before they can legally ride in a motor vehicle without a special seat.
Except school buses.
School buses are, essentially, the same as they were fifty years ago. While the mechanics and machinery under the hood may have improved over the years, the clumsy seating inside continues to be manufactured with the assumption that these buses will not be involved in traffic accidents. There are no seat belts.
On Monday, there were several serious accidents involving school buses including one with fatalities. School bus drivers are often required by law to receive more training than other drivers including student management and first aid. These same drivers must tether their own children in their personal vehicles but safety restraints not required when dozens of young lives are transported on the very same roads. This doesn’t make sense. And this is what happens:
Federal law required that buses under 10,000 pounds be equipped with seat belts. Unfortunately, that’s only a small number of the school buses in use (mostly the 6- to 12-passenger buses often used for special needs children) and they’re treated like cars because of their similar low weight and center of gravity. But the larger dinosaur buses are much heavier and the passengers sit much higher so they’re, presumably, safer in collisions and federal education and transportation agencies leave the decision up to the states. Only six require seat belts to be installed.
School administrators insist that seat belts are costly and take up room on the bus that is needed to fit more students. Others believe that shoulder belts can cause serious neck or abdominal injuries to smaller passengers. But saving lives should outweigh any of these risks. Funds for a seatbelt project could come from many places including the redistribution of funds budgeted to athletics, corporate bus sponsorships, sales of advertising space on the buses or nominal fees charged to the parents whose children ride the buses.
Why aren’t One Million Moms worried about THIS? This is a cause they should rally behind. Instead of making a fuss about who is featured in commercials for JC Penney or what kind of comic books are sold at Toys ‘R’ Us, maybe these moms could focus their time and attention on saving young lives with seat belts.
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