Why Don't School Buses Have Seat Belts?

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Seat belts have been mandatory in cars for more than 40 years, so why aren't school buses equipped the same way? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it's because school buses don't need seat belts to be safe. The bulkiness of a bus makes it about seven times safer than a passenger car. In the event of a collision, a bus can easily absorb the force of impact. Plus, kids riding in buses are doubly protected because the seats are designed to cushion children almost like eggs in a carton. The accommodations might not provide much legroom for unruly 8-year-olds, but the high seatbacks and heavy padding work to form a protective cocoon around them. If Junior is thrown forward in a crash, he won't get far before the cushy seatback absorbs his momentum.

Of course, none of this will help if the bus flips over. But the chances of that are so slim that most state legislators don't think seat belts are worth the added expense. Still, some states would rather be safe than sorry. New York and California, for example, now require all new school buses to come equipped with lap-and-shoulder belts.

March 30, 2009 - 6:00am
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