Testifying before a House subcommitte, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s David Strickland said seatbelts should remain out of school buses.
But wait, seatbelts make cars safer, right?
Not necessarily so, says Strickland. For cars, trucks, and motorcoaches, Strickland told the House Subcommitte on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade that seatbelts for every seat should stand as currently mandated. However, with school buses, adding seatbelts could limit the number of people who could sit in a seat and force districts to use more buses or seek out other modes of transportation to and from school. That, in turn, would increase the on-road risk for accidents.
The yearly number of school bus accidents is minuscule, says Strickland. He said over a given year, there are a “handful of deaths,” and most happen outside the school bus itself.
“There is the structure of compartmentalization in buses that protects children, and frankly, considering the costs and the benefits of having the belts on buses, the agency feels it is not the appropriate measure at this time,” Strickland added. At the congressional hearing, Strickland also testified about mandating stability control in heavy trucks and rollover roof structure protection for motorcoaches. He said further studies will reveal how necessary those two issues should be before the NHTSA requires them.
Seatbelt mandates in school buses have circulated for some time by way of lobbying petitions, but the NHTSA recommended that individual school districts decide what is right for them when it comes to equipping buses with belts. Strickland and the NHTSA, however, don’t think it really makes much of a difference.
Source: School Transportation News