Did you ever wonder as a kid why you had to buckle up religiously when entering a car but not every day on the way to school? It’s a common question that comes with both a relatively easy and simple answer and one that’s a bit more complex. The issue is one with a long history and a number of proponents on either side of the debate.
The shorter, simpler answer is that buses don’t need them. There were high-profile bus accidents which killed students but these are in the minority. Statistically, bus accidents result in fewer fatalities per mile traveled than regular cars. In some cases, school buses actually have seat belts but the students are not required to wear them.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, or NHTSA does not require the use of seatbelts in buses weighing over five tons. While there is a requirement for smaller buses, the decision for the larger ones is left to the states. As of yet, only six states, California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, and Texas require some use of seat belts on large buses. In some cases, this is only on newer buses.
And Some Complicating Factors
The more complex answer is a bit longer but comes to a similar conclusion. Many parts of a school bus are intentionally designed safer for all involved. This includes larger, padded seats to avoid blunt-force trauma. The sheer weight of the vehicle also reduces the chance of serious injury.
Furthermore, these is an issue of cost. Statistically, wearing a seat belt is not nearly as likely to save a life for young people on a bus. The sheer cost of retrofitting every existing bus with seat belts would be a monumental task. Even when it comes to the safety of children, there are some costs that legislatures don’t want to take on. For the time being, seat belts won’t be worn on most school buses.