Seatbelts - what about trains?

Unca Cece’s column on seatbelts in school buses got me to thinking about seatbelts in trains. There aren’t any on Amtrak trains.

So the Feds (who run Amtrak) don’t even give train passengers the option of wearing seatbelts, but the same Feds nearly threaten you with life imprisonment if you don’t wear a seatbelt while flying. 'Cause, as we all know, a seatbelt will save your life when you crash into the Earth at 400 MPH, but will help you not at all in a derailment at 80 MPH. :rolleyes:

And the reason given by Unca Cece concerning school buses - the seats aren’t designed for shoulder harnesses - doesn’t fly on Amtrak trains; they are bucket seats and thus adaptable to seatbelts.

So why the discrepancy?


First of all, you don’t wear seatbelts on airplanes to help you in crashes at 400 MPH. You wear them during takeoff and landing in the event of crashes during those maneuvers, which occur at speeds much slower, as well as to avoid injury in the event of sudden changes in attitude, such as a plane taking off suddenly rolling or pitching. During flight, you aren’t required to wear one unless there is undue turbulence, where the main worry is that you’ll smack your head into the cabin ceiling; wearing them at other times is only recommended because you can’t predict turbulence and what the heck, you’ve got one there and they aren’t THAT uncomfy to wear.

Which doesn’t mean that your point about trains isn’t valid. I don’t think this is a question that can be “answered”, though maybe there is some specific information cited by Amtrak or the Transportation Department as to why they don’t make trains belt up. At a guess, however, they don’t make you do so because there aren’t enough incidences of injury in derailments to make it necessary. You might want to look and see how many Amtrak derailment injuries and deaths occurred in the 90’s, and figure out the injury per milage travelled rate and see how it compares to cars and busses.

Where did you get that information from SuaSponte? It seems incorrect.
I found this case where a passenger that repeatedly refused to wear a seatbelt was fined US$1700. That seems a long way from life imprisonment.

P.s. Upon reading the full details of the case, only US$1100 of the fine was related to the passenger’s refusal to wear a seatbelt.

I was going for hyperbole, Arnold. The last flight I was on had recorded announcements concerning seatbelt use that were definitely meant to intimidate, with references to (non-specific) punishment if you didn’t put them on.

And yes, DS you are right about seatbelts on planes - my bit was inspired by a comedian I once saw, “when the oxygen masks deploy, please place them over your nose and mouth and breath normally - ignoring the fact that you are heading for the ocean like a f***ing DART!!”

However, DS, I’d be interested to know the comparative injury rates per airline passenger mile v. train passenger mile. I honestly don’t know which form of transport is safer.


Not to mention think of it this way-bus drivers have enough problems getting the kids to sit still and behave…imagine them trying to get them to wear seatbelts!

(I’m remember my days riding the school bus…we’d run up and down the aisles, flip over seats, etc etc…it wasn’t pretty).

I’d think that lapbelts on a schoolbus would cause more trouble, from kids using them as weapons on each other. When I was a kid I took the short bus (for some reason, they put the gifted kids on the same bus as the retarded kids), and short buses do have lap belts - and the retarded kids kept on hitting each other with the buckles. I’d imagine it’d be even worse on a large bus where there’s a lot of deliberate bullies as well as just nonthinking kids who just think it’s “funny” to hit each other with heavy blunt objects.

Back to lurking…

I drive a school bus.

Seat belts are a bad idea supported by well meaning, yet misinformed individuals. Cost is BS. Any driver will tell you that you take all your passengers and multiply that number times $1 million. That is the minimum amount of lawsuit you, the driver, would be facing in the event of an accident. Chances are the company would not support you. So, if seatbelts worked, don’t you think the legal sharks that are fed by the bus companies would require them?

School buses are more than “a little safe” as someone wrote. Try this with your car. Raise it 12 feet in the air, roof facing the ground. Drop it. Turn it over onto its wheels. Get in the vehicle, normally, sit in the driver seat and drive away. Stop laughing. My school bus will pass that test!

More proof needed? Visit your local fire/rescue squad. Ask them to cut your car into pieces with their version of the Jaws of Life. No problemo. Try it on my school bus, and they will need new rescue tools.

Now to seatbelts.

Who is going to ensure that the passengers are secured in the seat belt? Not the driver.

What happens when Susie slaps Johnnie with her seat belt buckle? Who cleans up the blood? Who will be called by both sides in the lawsuit?

What happens when the seat is ripped from its mooring on the floor. The seat was not designed and built to withstand the force of a passenger that could weigh anywhere from 40 pounds to over 300 pounds in an accident, pulling on that belt?

What happens when other children are injured by this flying seat with its passengers?

When you decide to ride my bus every day and take responsibility for the above, plus whatever else might occur, I would consider seatbelts.

Alternatively, when your car is built like my school bus, and YOU are randomly drug and alcohol tested, MANDATORY, or you lose your job, and you are tested a minimum of every 24 months on your driving skills, ALL of YOUR SKILLS, then, I would consider seat belts. Until then, stay off my bus with your feel good ideas.

Like on the rollercoasters.

Shoulder restrainsts don’t work because they don’t fit. You use a bus for all different sized kids from Kindergarten to High School. What fits one kid strangles another and is useless on another.

And before you talk about adjustable ones remember the bus driver ain’t your mama. They don’t have time to adjust everyone’s belts and police that they are always worn properly.

Lap bars, on the other hand are relatively cheap, slide down and snap and protect against injuries from side impact and rollover. The fatalities may be few but the injuries from rollover accidents are fairly common. In a rollover accident the bus turns into a tumble dryer of bodies. There were two rollover bus accidents with injuries at my college while I was there. Rural students or students on long trips are particularly at risk.

In a car accident you want to keep everyone in the car in the “safety cage” until help arrives. That makes passengers vulnerable to fire. Unlike on TV and in the movies where every car in an accident explodes, fire is unlikely. Still, since fire is a possibility. You want to get kids out of a bus in an accident as quickly as possible. The bars could be as easy to disengage as they are on the ferris wheel.

(wisely taps nose with index finger) A nod’s as good as a wink to a blind bat.

I suspect that seatbelts wouldn’t be too effective at preventing the sorts of injuries one might get on a train. Remember, the primary purpose of a seatbelt is to protect the passenger in the event of a sudden stop. It’s notably hard to stop a train suddenly. In a derailment, the worst-case scenario is that the cars roll over, in which case you’ll end up bashing your skull against the wall, seatbelt or no.

I like the lap bar idea, though. As a bonus, since lap bars are usually associated with (fun) roller coasters, kids might even be more inclined to use them.

First hyperbole, now understatement. It’s like English 101 around here. :wink:

What is that, some kind of simile?

Ooh! Rhetorical question!

A specific seat belt suggestion has segued into a superlative scholastic subject! Dare we delve down the deep ditch of literary devices?

I’ll take alliteration for $200, Alpha.

And regarding the OP, your word choice is interesting, Sua. Do you think that if passengers were given the option to wear seatbelts on the train, they would do so?

Chronos, that’s not the only reason for seat belts. Example - we already mentioned how they keep you from impacting the ceiling on airplanes in turbulence. They perform a similar job of keeping automobile passengers secured in their seats for things like high acceleration turns and rollovers. Heck, you mention roller coasters. Look at rides like the big swings. They don’t have sudden stops, but use seat belts to keep the passengers from falling out. Think of the complaint about Star Trek (ack - I’m using Star Trek for a real world example :wink: ) that whenever there’s “turbulence” or they’re shot by some energy weapon or whatnot, the crew is thrown back and forth across the stage. Seatbelts would keep them anchored, no? Same thing for train passengers. You get a rollover, you don’t have dozens of bodies playing high-speed Twister.

(For those playing the English 101 home game, how’s that for metaphor?)

Hmph. The onomatopoeia in this thread has no click…no snap! What happens when the train crashes and smacks into something? The people inside will bang into the walls and their limbs will crack! Flames will whoosh, steam hiss, and the whole thing will explode with a boom! Then how will your seatbelts help you?

Why, we’ll just pop them off, whizz on the flames, and galumph off the train. Slap me if I natter.

*Originally posted by grue *
** When I was a kid I took the short bus (for some reason, they put the gifted kids on the same bus as the retarded kids) **

Sure they did, grue. Sure they did. :wink:

Careful, FarmerOak, don’t insult the Grue. He might eat your face!

turn on lantern

Guess none of the rest of you goofs has been in a choo-choo boo-boo before.

I’ve been on a couple.

Let me assure you that, if Mr. (or Ms.) Engineer in the front applies the emergency brake you will have stuff flying around the interior. Even if the train takes a mile or so to stop (which it can) it is still a sudden enough stop to cause injuries.

This has happened to me twice. The first time I was on my way back to the dining car for lunch. There I was, walking along swaying with the train and >BOOM!< I’m nose to the floor going “Oh, look - they have little Amtrak logos woven into the carpet - how cool!” People got thrown from their seat, luggage fell down, food was all over the dining car, conductors were looking for paperwork and radios… it was messy. The second time, on a less-than-crowded train, I had stretched across two seats for a nap (I’d been awake about 46 hours - it had been a really great party) and woke up when suitcases started started falling on me.

On the other hand, no one got seriously hurt in either incident. So a train stopping on it’s own braking power isn’t likely to cause major injury. And, as has been pointed out, not much stops a train. They don’t hit cars, they drive through them.

In the event of a head-on collision with another train (extremely unlikely, but it has happened) the forces involved would likely be such that a seat belt isn’t going to help you.

We did have one freaky accident out here in NW Indiana a couple years back. A commuter train hit one of those big trucks hauling those giant steel rolls. In one of those perverse reversals, the truck survived and the train didn’t. The truck bed with its cargo got jolted about 2 feet, and the train cars, um… they sort of went around the truck and cargo, getting thoroughly shredded in the process. One steel roll got loose and rolled down the aisle through the middle of the train, unrolling as it went, and squashing a couple commuters who didn’t get out of the way in time. In that case, it was a good thing folks weren’t wearing seat belts, since most of those who escaped did so only by a ver small margin. Then again, this is the red-eye train with few people on it. If it had been a later train with standees… it would have been very very icky.