Should Ohio School Buses Be Equipped With Seat Belts?

By: Debbie Campbell
THE VILLAGE REPORTER

Cleveland OH – A video released by the State Highway Patrol is causing quite the discussion about whether seatbelts should be mandated on school buses. 

The video shows students being tossed around the inside of a bus during a crash.  In December of last year, a Northern Local Schools bus rolled over after it was struck by a vehicle that ran a red light.  There were 8 students onboard the bus and all were treated for non-life-threatening injuries. The driver, who was wearing a seatbelt, appeared to standup and was alert and aware and showed no visible signs of injury. 

Currently there is no Ohio law that requires seatbelts on school buses that weigh more than 10,000 pounds.  In fact, only 8 states have made it mandatory to have seatbelts on large public buses.  Those states include New York, New Jersey, Arkansas, California, Florida, Louisiana, Nevada and Texas. 

Despite no law being on the books and the cost which is around $4,000 per bus, some school districts in Ohio are taking it upon themselves to equip their buses with seatbelts.  Avon Lake City Schools became the first district in Ohio to add seatbelts.  Beachwood City Schools will start adding seatbelts to all new bus purchases. 

There is discussion on both sides of this debate.  Some believe that if the students in this video were wearing seatbelts they could have just walked away from the accident with no injuries.  Others believe that if the students were wearing seatbelts, they could have been stuck hanging upside down until someone was able to safely free them. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, between 2007 and 2016 there have been an average of 128 deaths per year resulting from school-bus related crashes.  However, the majority of those deaths have not come from people actually riding on the buses but people in other vehicles involved in the crash with the bus.

According to the NHTSA website, “The school bus is the safest vehicle on the road—your child is much safer taking a bus to and from school than traveling by car. Although four to six school-age children die each year on school transportation vehicles, that’s less than one percent of all traffic fatalities nationwide. NHTSA believes school buses should be as safe as possible. That’s why our safety standards for school buses are above and beyond those for regular buses. NHTSA decided 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 protect children without them needing to buckle up. Through compartmentalization, children are protected from crashes by strong, closely-spaced seats that have energy-absorbing seat backs.”

Debbie Campbell may be reached at publisher@thevillagereporter.com


 

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