Seat belts on buses: good or bad?

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Since the wreck last week in Vidalia that involved a school bus, I’ve been trying to decide if I think there should be seat belts on school buses. Oh believe me, my first response was, absolutely there should be, why do we even have to ask the question? So I got online and began doing some research on the subject and I have been very surprised at what I have found.

For every site that explains in great detail why we need seat belts on the school buses I have found another one that explains why we don’t. And the strange part is that they both make very compelling arguments.

This is an issue that is not going to go away anytime soon, so we should all try and educate ourselves on it.

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On the pro side:

Education: Using a seat belt reinforces the need to use a seat belt in all vehicles.

Children’s behavior: Seat belts help ensure that children remain seated.

The protection of children in an accident: Using seat belts will help prevent students from being thrown around in the event of an accident

Low cost: The price to install seat belts is realtivly low.

On the con side:

Fatalities and injuries: A very small percentage of fatalities occur on school buses. Most occur when students are walking to and from the school bus stop.

Not a cost effective expenditure: The money used to install lap belts could be better spent on other safety measures.

Seat belts are ineffective in catastrophic accidents: Seat belts may actually prevent rapid exit from bus fire or sinking bus.

Who will guarantee they are used and used correctly:This responsibility could also be a distraction to the driver.

Mixed use of belts on a bus can actually increase the risk of injury: Children not wearing seat belts would cause more force of impact to students who are properly belted.

No carryover effect in education: Parental use of seat belts is more effective in encouraging future seat belt use.

The seat belts themselves can cause injuries: Unused seat belts can become weapons on the bus.

Weight and mass difference and the effects of speed: Since buses are larger, heavier and usually travel at a slower speed, the effects of collisions is not as severe as in smaller vehicles.

School bus impact zone: School buses are designed to sit above a typical impact zone in a collision.

The National Highway Transportation Administration says that the safety requirements of school buses are more strenuous than other passenger vehicles, and there is not enough evidence to require seat belts to be installed in buses.

According to the NHTA, the best way to prevent school bus fatalities is through compartmentalization that protects children without the use of seat belts.

So did that help any? If you were like me probably not. Like most subject’s I think any good debater can come with pros or cons of most issues.

But if you asked the parents of the children on that school bus last week their thoughts, you would hear the same thing — it’s time to really investigate the validity of this issue and protect the children of the Miss-Lou.

Information for this article came from and

Christina Hall writes a weekly column for The Democrat. She can be reached at