Seat Belts in School Buses a Hot Topic at Reno Expo
They’re coming to Nevada school buses. We take a closer look at the high cost…and high benefits.
The worry many parents feel when putting their children on school buses won't be experienced in the future. After much debate, Governor Sandoval signed legislation that requires new school buses bought after June 2019 to be equipped with seat belts.
But for school buses on the road right now, Nevada is still a "let 'em fly" state, where kids and all are loose cargo going every which way in the event of a crash, like test rollover video shows. All you have to do is see those to understand the importance of seat belts in school buses. The Nevada Legislature did, requiring lap-shoulder belts for new school buses in two years.
That may be a long time to wait, but putting your children on a school bus is much safer than driving them to school. At the North American School Bus Expo Conference and Trade Show being held this week at the Peppermill, School Bus Safety Co. president Jeff Cassell told us, "A school bus is built like a tank, and a lot of work goes into how well it absorbs crashes."
On average, 625 children are killed each year going to and from school in the U.S., according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey that reviewed 10 years of school travel. 490 were in a car. In a bus? As Cassell told us, "On average, five children a year are killed inside a school bus." School buses use tall, padded seats with little space between rows. That keeps kids in their row in the event of a crash. Cassell says the big advantage of seat belts comes when you have rollovers: "If a bus rolls it keeps the kid in the seat, it doesn't eject them from the bus."
Yet despite the obvious benefits, only seven states including Nevada have made seat belts on school buses mandatory. It's a cost thing...if adding seat belts was free, it's a no-brainer. But schools have tight budgets, and adding belts to a new bus costs $8,000-$10,000. Cassell told us, "The belts themselves are not expensive. It's making sure that the attachment points are going to hold up to meet federal requirements."
Multiply that by the number of buses in a district and it's a big financial hurdle. But since the life span of a bus is 10 to 15 years, School Transportation News magazine editor Ryan Grey says the cost is not so much: "You take that $8000, even if you go up to $10,000, and you really look at it as only being $100 a bus.”
Other benefits? Seat belts keep the kids in the seat. And as Gray told us, "The school bus drivers have seen that there's less distraction on the road and in the bus with these seat belts." And there’s less bullying. Julie Coley of SafeGuard Seats told us, "I mean it makes sense, right? A bully cannot bully as easily when he's restrained in his seat."
Plus, wearing the belt reinforces a safe behavior that they'll take when they drive their first cars. And that's the riskiest driving period, in any driver's life.