Keeping our children safe is our highest priority. For years, we’ve known that safety belts save lives. In the event of a crash, they can reduce the risk of critical injuries and death by about 50 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. We make sure our kids wear seatbelts when they’re in our cars, and California lawmakers have required them to wear them on their way to school. However, the law only applies to buses built after July 1, 2005, and safety belts are absent from many Orange County school buses, reported the Orange County Register.
California Law Requires Safety Belts on School Buses
Fifteen years ago, a law was enacted in California requiring that school buses be equipped with shoulder-to-lap belts. California is one of only six states to have such a law and the only one requiring the arguably safer shoulder-style belts. School buses in Florida, New Jersey, New York, Louisiana, and Texas must have lap belts. While 8 states introduced bills in 2009 that would mandate safety belts on school buses, none of them were passed.
Why Haven’t Orange County Schools Installed Safety Belts on Buses?
Since school buses are often operable for 20 years or longer and new ones cost up to $200,000, many Orange County schools have yet to replace older buses. Why haven’t they installed safety belts in old buses? Cost. If a bus floor is rusted or worn, it must be replaced before seatbelts can be anchored to it. Retrofits can cost between $5,000 and $20,000.
How Important Is It to Have Safety Belts on School Buses?
Studies on the importance of seatbelts on school buses have offered conflicting information: while the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s study found that “requiring belts on large, new school buses” would have insignificant safety benefits, an investigation into a fatal school bus accident in 2012 by the National Traffic Safety Board found that riders wearing shoulder-style belts were safer than those wearing lap belts or no safety restraints at all.
We may not have a consensus on the extent to which safety belts reduce the risk of serious or fatal injury in the event of a crash on a school bus-vehicles whose size and design already make them safer than other modes of transport-but sending our kids a clear message about wearing seatbelts is important. They should be taught from an early age to always wear safety belts no matter the vehicle. Year after year, seatbelt use is the lowest among teens, which is one of the reasons crashes are among the leading cause of death for them. Maybe somewhere between us sending them off to school on the bus and them getting keys to their own cars the message is being lost.
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