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Should Your Child Be Wearing a Seat Belt on the Bus?

The news of a horrific and deadly school bus crash in Chattanooga, Tennessee has brought renewed attention to the issue of seat belts on school buses. The accident, which killed five children and injured many more, happened when a bus driven at a high rate of speed ran off the road, flipped, and ended up wrapping around a tree. The accident represents every parent’s worst nightmare. Though school buses are considered the safest form of transportation for children, with deadly accidents a rarity, they do happen – and those accidents that result in children dying are generally onboard buses that do not have seat belts installed or required. There are only a few states that require the installation and use of seat belts, and in those that do, safety experts often consider them to be inadequate.  At Jonathan Perkins Injury Lawyers, we are dedicated to helping you keep your loved ones safe. We are happy to provide you with helpful information as to whether your child should be wearing a seat belt on the bus.

National safety experts have indicated that all school buses need seat belts, but that there are important differences in the type of belts that can be installed and their effectiveness. In some instances, the wrong equipment can cause seat belt injuries. According to the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has indicated that buses need three-point seat belts similar to those that passenger cars are equipped with in order to ensure children’s safety. Without that type of belt, children can actually be injured worse then when not wearing a belt at all.

Independent crash investigator Ken Saczalski has investigated the subject extensively. He says, “The belts are good, and they are certainly very good in a rollover where you might be ejected if you didn’t have that belt.” But he also points out that when a child is only wearing a two-point belt that goes over the lap, they will not be protected. “The seat belt pivots over and this belt ramps up over the crest and into the abdominal region.” He describes the effect as turning the seatbelt into a weapon.

Parents may reasonably ask why the three-point belts have not been federally mandated, and the answer is simple – cost. The NHTSA has estimated that retrofitting school buses with the appropriate seat belts would cost between $7,300 and $10,000 per bus, with an estimated national cost of billions of dollars. They are encouraging manufacturers to begin equipping new buses with the belts, but in the meantime parents are left wondering what to tell their children whose buses are equipped with lap belts.

The decision lies with each parent. You should do your own research and use your judgement, as there are arguments supporting both wearing the belt and not wearing the belt. If the worst happens and your child suffers a seat belt injury on a school bus, we can help. Contact the personal injury attorneys at Jonathan Perkins Injury Lawyers for compassionate, knowledgeable legal representation.


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