Seat belts on school busses. Why not?

You could just have three belts per bench, like my truck.

But then each child only gets 1/3 of the seat instead of 1/2, even if there are only 2 kids in a seat. And then what do you do with the [del]fat[/del] husky kid? Or a parent?

I’m not arguing that belts are needed on large school buses. But the reasons they aren’t required have nothing to do with possible seatbelt injuries, whether by the inertia/restraint effect or by kids using them as weapons against each other. (Grude’s anecdote notwithstanding)

Large (over 10,000 lb) school buses are quite safe without belts as has been noted many times. Their main safety feature, aside from being huge, heavy, and up higher than most points of impact, is compartmentalization. The high padded seat backs placed in rows close together keep the kids from bouncing all over the place in a crash.

But since some states have elected to mandate belts despite this, it is clear that those belts, while not doing much to improve safety, haven’t done anything to decrease safety as several upthread have indicated they would.

It is one of the top reasons school bus drivers themselves are strongly against seat-belts on large buses even though the general public is closely split. Here is a summary from an entire article on it by the National Education Association (NEA).

Some of the concerns that drivers express about seat belts are:

Students can and do use the heavy belt buckles as weapons, injuring other riders.

It is next to impossible to make sure that all students keep their belts properly fastened, so that they are not injured by the belts in an accident.

If a bus has to be evacuated in an emergency, such as a fire, panicked or disoriented students might be trapped by their belts.

When drivers balance these concerns against the many safety features already built into the design of school buses, they conclude that given the way buses are presently operated, they are safer without seat belts."*

But again, seat belts are already mandated on all school buses in 6 US states, and they are federally mandated in all school buses under 10,000 lbs, so if any of these were legitimate concern we should be able to find some examples of them having happened already in those states, or on buses under 10k lbs.

Want safety? Rear facing seats, egg carton seating, seat and shoulder belts. Anything less is based on money, not lives.

With only two seated, each can occupy part of the middle space. The center belt buckle pushes down between the bench and back cushions.

Does this ignore the cost of injuries? How many are injured rather than killed in bus accidents, and what cost associated with these injuries influences the decision?

Here is what you are up against in terms of numbers. The latest high profile crash resulting in deaths was in Houston and it was caused by a bus flipping off of an overpass onto another road below.The bus was largely destroyed as seen in the photos but it only resulted in the deaths of two students. This bus had lapbelts but I haven’t been able to find out whether or not the victims were using them or not.

From the article, it also states that “In a presentation at the meeting, the agency said a federal mandate for lap and shoulder belts could save two lives annually, assuming 100 percent compliance with wearing them. It estimated the installation cost at more than $7,300 and less than $10,300 per bus.” Multiply that times 480,000 buses plus the reoccuring annual maintenance and enforcement costs and it is very significant.

All of that is to save an advertised two lives but again, when you start dealing with numbers that tiny, you start to see some weird statistical effects. You could very easily end up with a number of unintended consequences that kill an equal or greater number of people through equally bizarre causes ranging from increased transmission of infectious diseases to risks involved with longer travel time just because the driver has to ensure compliance with the seat-belt laws. It takes incredibly little to produce a measurable effect on death rates when you are dealing with populations that large and statistical risks that minuscule. They say that winning the lottery is so unlikely that you might as well consider it impossible but it is practically a sure thing compared to a child being killed while riding a large school bus in the U.S.

When I cross-examined Greyhound at a coroner’s inquest arising of of an intercity coach rollover, the company line was that the death rate for busses was extremely low so seatbelts would not make any significant difference, and that people would get hurt by unused seatbelts flailing about.

Some of the risks, like kids using them as weapons, aren’t the sort of thing that would make the news. Others, like evacuation in event of the bus catching fire, would, but are so rare that six states for a few years wouldn’t be enough to tell.

But again, I’m not arguing in favor of requiring seat belts on school buses, nor am I arguing that the cost is justifiable.

I’m saying that the reasons they are safe without belts are because they are big, heavy, high, and designed in a way where the seat backs are already built-in, purposely-designed, safety restraints.

You’re saying that belts aren’t required because they could cause injuries. That is not the case. It isn’t given as a reason by any transit authority as to why they don’t require belts, and in those states that choose to require belts anyway, there is no evidence that they have caused injuries.

A list of reasons that bus drivers might use to argue that they don’t want to go through the enormous hassle of having to see that each kid is properly belted in when it offers almost zero benefit to the kids and huge headaches for them (which is true), will necessarily include some of the same kind of speculation you are making - “For all we know, more kids might get hurt by using them as weapons against each other!”, “Ya know, sometimes the seat belt is what actually causes injuries in a crash…”, etc.

Here is what you are up against in terms of the OP: These factoids have never been demonstrated to be the case in the real, non-hypothetical school buses that are already on the roads with seat belts installed. They have never been offered as a reason by transit authorities as to why they don’t require seat belts in school buses. There is a factual answer to the OP and it doesn’t involve possible injuries caused by seat belts.

Again, you are missing a much larger and nuanced point. Once you get into fatality numbers that small and a population that large, almost anything can make it worse because you can never get to a true zero fatality rate.

There are real world examples of this. A lot of people stopped flying directly after 9/11 because they were fearful of plane travel. That resulted directly in an additional 1,600 Americans dead because they chose much more dangerous private car travel over commercial plane travel (only 246 were killed in the planes themselves). Some seatbelt remediation plans would also result in reduced capacity that would also cause more than two deaths a year because the kids would opt to travel to school on vastly less safe alternatives like their tired parents driving them instead.

People are really terrible about risk assessment in general and are very reactionary about it. A savings of two lives a year nationally is essentially the same as zero and it takes resources away from much more effective life-saving measures if people focus on it. As already noted, if you want to make school buses even safer than they already are, you need to focus on safety around the boarding process itself through better law enforcement rather than the period in transit but even that is still a relatively small risk statistically. If your goal is to save the lives of schoolchildren in general, school buses aren’t even in the top 100 risks.

Some ideas ideas to tackle the top causes of needless deaths among schoolchildren are:

  1. Swimming lessons and better security around swimming pools
  2. Free fire alarm installation, inspection and education for their families.
  3. Slip-resistant bath mats for bathtubs (that one is stupidly simple yet it would save a large number of lives of all ages).
  4. Basic firearms awareness and safety courses

Those are just some off the top of my head and they are only a few of many that would be vastly more effective than overreacting to a very few but admittedly tragic school bus accidents. You have to look at the statistics to figure out where the best bang for your buck is to make a real impact. You can’t do that for school bus accidents because the fatal accident rate is already so low and is almost always freak accidents which can never be fully remedied.

These are all valid suggestions, for some thread about ways to prevent needless deaths among schoolchildren. In this thread, they are still irrelevant.

I’m not missing any larger point. There isn’t one.

The OP asks:

The factual answers to those questions are:

Are seat belts on school buses helpful?

Seat belts offer little if any additional protection because of the buses size, weight and height, and the fact that the seat backs are designed to restrain kids in the event of a crash. There may be some tiny benefit to using belts in the rare case of a rollover but statistically that benefit is so small it just doesn’t justify the cost. Despite this, 6 US states do require seat belts on all school busses.

On those buses that do have seat belts is there any evidence that they actually add additional danger?

No. Available data on the buses in use that do have seatbelts indicates there is no additional danger in having them, there just isn’t much added benefit to justify the cost.

Correction: Available data do not indicate that there is additional danger. There is not enough data to say conclusively that there is no additional danger.

That approach is just stupid. There’s also not enough data to say conclusively that little green men aren’t about to take over the Earth.

In the absence of any evidence that they are, there’s not much point in debating it and the current answer is that they are not.

That’s where running behind the bus comes in.

Yes, it does ignore the cost of injuries. But the cost of injuries is so much less than $6M per instance that the grand total becomes negligibly small next to the value of the lives saved (even though that number is small), and is further dwarfed by the cost of implementing a seat belt program.

My daughter reports that her busses have 3-point seatbelts, 3 per seat. But they don’t ride every day, only on field trips; there are multiple teachers and parents riding along in case of assault by buckle. This is in SoCal.

There was a very similar accident in Huntsville, AL in 2006, where a school bus collided with a car, went over the side of the elevated highway and fell 40 feet. Of the 40 passengers, 4 died. The bus did not have seat belts.