For years we have all been inundated with slogans like, “Buckle up, It’s the Law”, and “Buckle up for Safety”, even “Don’t be a Dummy, Buckle Up”. The reasons for these slogans are obvious– using a seatbelt reduces the risk of serious injury or death in a car wreck. However, this reasoning is lost when it comes to our most precious cargo… our children.
Forty-seven states have laws requiring the use of seatbelts. Most even have stiffer penalties for not buckling up children in the vehicle. But, for reasons passing understanding, these laws do not apply to school buses. Eighty-five percent (85%) of our school buses do not have seat belts, despite the fact that engineers, physicians, and crash safety experts all agree that seat belts in vehicles save lives and minimize injuries. According to the American Automobile Association, “Restrained occupants are more likely to escape harm by spreading the force of impact and gradually stopping the body, safety belts effectively reduce the severity of injuries.”
So why are do we not have seatbelts in our school buses? Opponents of laws requiring seatbelts in school buses point to the cost of implementing the law as the main reason. They say that it would cost millions of dollars and may save “only” one life and several serious injuries a year. Even if that were so (and many experts disagree, including the American Medical Association, Physicians for Automotive Safety, and many other reputable experts), is it not worth that one child’s life, or those several seriously injured children’s well being that seatbelts on school buses be required?
Every European Union country and Australia have required lap/shoulder belts in school buses for over a decade. Isn’t it time we in America offer the same protection to our future?