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Steven M. Lee, PC

Keeping School Buses Safe and Making Them Safer Still: NHTSA’s Back-to-School Plan

We all remember the big yellow school buses, and, in the years since we hopped aboard to attend our first days of school, not much has changed. The seats still look the same, the buses look about the same, and, with the exception of air conditioning, the ride experience is probably about the same, too.

Another thing that hasn’t changed since our own school bus rides is the lack of seatbelts, a fact that surprises many parents. Is this something to worry about? Yes and no—the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants some changes, but the agency also had some interesting findings regarding seatbelts in buses.

Are School Buses Safe Without Seatbelts?

In today’s world of auto safety, we would never dream of letting our children ride around in our own vehicles without a seatbelt. In one generation, we went from riding in the bed of our dad’s beat-up pickup truck to airbags, booster seats, and collision avoidance technology. How, then, in this world of vehicle safety advancements, do we still let kids ride in school buses without seatbelts?

The answer mostly lies in the fact that school buses are safe—very safe. NHTSA reports that between the years of 2000 and 2012, four children were killed in school bus crashes, compared to 492 children in passenger vehicles. Despite these numbers favoring the safety of school buses, NHTSA means to make safe school buses even safer—and they want to do it now, in an effort to prevent injury and death completely.

This could come in several forms, but primary focus areas include distraction and loading zone safety, as well as the addition of 3-point seatbelts. While school bus manufacturers and NHTSA have not found a unified approach to improving safety, both parties are in active talks to address the issue.

When you send your child off to school, you can rest assured that they will be safe onboard. Take a moment to remind them of proper procedures for crossing the road, waiting to board, and riding safely—perhaps someday soon you will be reminding them to buckle up, too!


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