Why Don’t Buses Have Seat Belts?

Seat belts are now required in all states, whether you are the driver or a passenger. Also, babies and toddlers must be fastened in a specific car seat. Why don’t buses have seat belts, given the restraint regulations for other vehicles?

Why buses dont have seatbelts

Seat belts don’t make buses safer

While school buses and highway buses have high-backed chairs and raised seating areas, city buses do not.

In reality, the transverse seats run parallel to the sides of the buses and lack any protection in the form of impact-absorbing seats in front of them. Also, while the nearly universal practice of purchasing low-floor buses makes it considerably simpler for passengers, especially the elderly and disabled, to get on and off the bus, it means that in the case of a disaster, the other vehicle might end up in the sitting area.

The cost of busses would increase significantly

Another reason buses do not have seat belts is lack of capital.

According to the University of Alabama and the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), installing seat belts on buses would cost between $8,000 and $15,000 each bus. Also, seat belts would take up space presently utilized for seats, resulting in fewer seats on each bus.

Seat belts would take up extra space on the bus, requiring bus fleets to grow by up to 15% merely to transport the same number of people. Such an increase would be especially challenging in areas where transport vehicles are already overcrowded.

Why don’t school buses have seat belts specifically?

There is most likely one journey where children are not required to wear a seat belt. What happened to that? It’s off to school!

In reality, the vast majority of school buses in the United States lack seat belts. Have you ever thought about why this is so? Isn’t it odd to stuff hundreds of precious lives into a giant yellow tube and send it racing down the road with no seat belts?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does not need seat belts on school buses weighing more than 10,000 pounds. Seat belts are required by federal law for lighter buses, while seat belts for bigger buses are up to the states. Seat belts are required on school buses in just six states (California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, and Texas), although several states only need them on newer buses.

Why wouldn’t the federal government enforce seat belts on school buses? The short answer is that they don’t require them. According to NHTSA research, the cost of installing seat belts on school buses exceeds any possible advantages in a cost/benefit analysis.

Modern school buses are big and hefty, with passengers perched high above the ground. This implies they’re safe. Over 400,000 public school buses travel more than 4 billion miles each year, transporting nearly 25 million children. Despite this, less than ten children die in school bus accidents per year, and studies suggest that seat belts would not have avoided most of those deaths.

In comparison, around 800 children are killed each year while walking, bicycling, or riding in a passenger automobile to or from school. According to the National Safety Council, school buses are 40 times safer than the typical family vehicle, making them the safest mode of ground transportation.

School buses are built with safety in mind. Seats on school buses feature high backs and plenty of padding. Also, they are densely packed together to create compartmentalization. The seats absorb the majority of the impact in the case of a collision, safeguarding the children who sit in them.

Adding seat belts to school buses would be expensive, but experts are divided on what sort of seat belts should be utilized. Because children move around a lot, there’s no promise they’d wear seat belts if they were fitted or that they’d use them correctly. Bus drivers cannot be charged with ensuring appropriate seat belt use since their focus must be kept on the road while driving.

Considering that analysts say that adding seat belts to school buses would have little if any effect on safety, most states have determined that there is not enough benefit to warrant the cost of doing so. As well as the price is not negligible. Experts say that putting seat belts on all school buses could cost each state more than $100 million.

Experts are also concerned that installing seat belts on school buses may limit total bus capacity. As fewer children can ride buses, they may be forced to seek alternative modes of transportation to and from school, which are riskier than riding a school bus without seat belts.

Should school buses have seat belts?

school bus seat belt

The National Coalition for Seatbelts on School Buses outlines the following reasons why all big school buses should have seat belts to encourage students:

  • If a collision happens, the usage of seat belts reduces the likelihood of death and the severity of injuries to children who are correctly seated on school buses.
  • The use of a seat belt improves passenger conduct and decreases driver distractions.
  • Seat belts prevent passengers from injury in a rollover or side-impact collisions.
  • The use of seat belts on school buses encourages positive safety behaviours.

It should be noted that smaller school buses weighing less than 10,000 pounds are already required to have them.

Seat belts on huge buses, according to opponents, are not only needless but may also be dangerous. The NHTSA states that:

  • Seat belts are useless in the vast majority of fatal incidents.
  • More children are killed while walking to and from school bus stops than inside school buses.
  • There is no clear evidence that seat belts decrease fatalities or injuries on school buses.
  • School buses are mainly constructed for safety. They are heavier and take minor damage in an accident than smaller vehicles and trucks. High cushioned seats on school buses are also designed to absorb impact.
  • There is no promise that kids will use seatbelts once they are fitted. Mixed and improper usage of seat belts has been proven in studies to increase the risk of injury.
  • Seat belts might be used as weapons to attack or strangle other passengers, according to some.
  • Spending the money recommended for seat belt installation on other safety measures would be a better use of the funds.

Both sides of the argument agree that school bus transit is one of the safest modes of transportation in the United States, considerably safer than driving. According to the NHTSA, school bus collisions have killed an average of 11 people each year since 1984. The organization is presently looking at methods to make school buses even safer.

Do seat belts increase safety in school buses?

On the rare times that a school bus is involved in an accident, the topic of whether seat belts are required on school buses is always asked.

School buses have an outstanding track record when it comes to safety. They are already among the most secure modes of transportation. Per passenger/kilometer of travel, it is 16 times safer than traveling in a family vehicle.

Seat belts for school buses, according to safety experts, would not increase safety, according to the Canada Safety Council. There is no scientific proof that this would save lives. Transport Canada has imposed nearly 40 safety criteria to the design and construction of school buses manufactured in Canada and imported into the country. 

These features include:

  • Specialized brake systems
  • Lights
  • Emergency exits
  • Roof escape hatches
  • High cushioned seatbacks that soften the force of a collision

School buses are not designed to transport passengers. They are designed and built differently from passenger automobiles and rely on passive safety rather than seat belts. They are larger, heavier, and have a more excellent center of gravity. Newer technologies, such as anti-lock brakes, would be preferable.

Passengers on school buses are protected by “compartmentalization,” a design that includes:

  • Seats with high backs
  • Seats filled with energy-absorbing material
  • Seats arranged in groups to form compartments
  • Strong seat anchorages

According to research, lap belts may raise the risk of brain injuries in a head-on accident. By securely keeping the child’s pelvis in place, the torso may swing forward, the head impacting the back of the seat in front of them with more force than if the entire body had hit the seat. This has the potential to cause significant head and neck injuries.

Combination lap and shoulder belts would need stronger chairs, thereby increasing the risk of harm to kids who are not strapped up. The driver cannot verify that every child wears a seat belt; some buses can transport up to 70 children. Also, the shoulder belts might cause stomach injuries due to “submarining,” which occurs when kids fall, potentially injuring organs protected by the lap belts.

Aside from some engineering issues, someone would need to guarantee that seat belts are worn, correctly adjusted between usage by younger and larger children, and mended when broken. Seatbelts may obstruct evacuation in an emergency. Young children should not be put in situations where they are in charge of their safety.

Mishaps do happen on school buses, despite their excellent safety record. These incidents can occur on the bus, but it is more frequent for injuries outside the bus, such as getting hit by their own school bus or other cars.

Children who walk to school or use other modes of transportation are at a higher risk than those who ride the school bus.

Final Words 

Despite the challenges, some progress has been made in requiring seat belts on buses.

Considering the cost and the fact that installing seat belts is unlikely to result in significant safety improvements, eight states require seat belts on school buses in 2018, including Arkansas, California, Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, and Texas. However, laws in some states require sufficient funding.

No state requires seat belts on coach buses; nevertheless, there has been much rumbling on the federal level about enacting laws requiring seat belts and other safety upgrades on highway coaches; this has risen in volume with the massive rise in fatal bus collisions.

In any event, unlike the school bus business, the highway coach industry is not waiting for regulation; up to 80% of new coaches are already equipped with seat belts. Unfortunately, considering the extended lifetime of a highway coach, which can range from fifteen to twenty years, it will be some time before all of them are equipped with seat belts.

Unlike school buses and highway coaches, there has been a minimal push to impose seat belts on municipal buses. Seat belts on city buses appear to be unnecessary from a practical standpoint. Even though the contemporary low-floor city bus is less safe than school and highway buses, city buses rarely drive faster than 35 mph implies that any collision is likely to be small.

Also, because most city bus journeys are short and many trips involve standing passengers, the addition of seat belts will make far less of an impact.

Regardless of whether its passengers have seat belts, all buses have seat belts for drivers, and most bus companies require their drivers to wear seat belts in the case of an accident to avoid damage to the dashboard or windshield.

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