Seat belts in school buses – a novel idea?

Written by Troy Marsh |

According to a 2006 article, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published its opinion that school buses are so safe that children do not need to wear seat belts.

In fact, NHTSA attempts to support its position with the following from its web site:

We have seat belts in passenger cars.  Why don’t we have them on school buses?

Seat belts have been required on passenger cars since 1968.  Forty-nine States and the District of Columbia have enacted laws requiring the wearing of seat belts in passenger cars and light trucks.  There is no question that seat belts play an important role in keeping occupants safe in theses vehicles, however school buses are different by design and use a different kind of safety restraint system that works extremely well.

Large school buses are heavier and distribute crash forces differently than do passenger cars and light trucks.  Because of these differences, the crash forces experienced by occupants of buses are much less than that experienced by occupants of passenger cars, light trucks or vans.  NHTSA decided that the best way to provide crash protection to passengers of large school buses is through a concept called “compartmentalization.”  This requires that the interior of large buses provide occupant protection such that children are protected without the need to buckle-up.  Through compartmentalization, occupant crash protection is provided by a protective envelope consisting of strong, closely-spaced seats that have energy-absorbing seat backs.

Small school buses (with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less) must be equipped with lap and/or lap/shoulder belts at all designated seating positions.  Since the sizes and weights of small school buses are closer to those of passenger cars and trucks, seat belts in those vehicles are necessary to provide occupant protection.

I say it is time for another study.

NHTSA Seat Belts on Large School Buses

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