The National Transportation Safety Board has been investigating the horrific interstate crash in Missouri that killed a 15-year-old girl on a school bus and the driver of another vehicle. Investigators are trying to determine what factors may have caused the wreck and how to prevent similar accidents, NTSB Vice Chairman Christopher Hart had this to say about one aspect of the investigation:
We’ve been interested for some time in school bus safety. We’re also interested in construction zone safety.
The accident happened on August 5th on an interstate highway about 40 miles from St. Louis. A truck slowed for road construction and was struck by a GMC pickup. Two buses carrying high school band students then crashed into that wreck, killing a 15-year-old student and the driver of another vehicle.
Among other issues, the NTSB will examine whether seat belts on the bus could have prevented injuries or deaths. Investigators will also consider the possible benefits of accident-avoidance technology for vehicles such as school buses that would provide some warning to drivers about impending slowdowns and would apply brakes automatically. Although every state has laws requiring seat belts or restraints for children in passenger cars, only six states (New York, New Jersey, California, Florida, Louisiana and Texas) have laws requiring lap or three-point seat belts on large school buses.
In some cases only newly-purchased or recently manufactured buses fall within the requirement. In Louisiana and Texas, seatbelts are only required if school districts can get funding for them. Current federal standards on school bus safety from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration only require three-point belts on smaller school buses (those weighing less than 10,000 pounds).
In Missouri, where the deadly crash occurred, seat belts are not required in large school buses, but are recommended if school districts can obtain funding. Whether the buses in the crash had seat belts is not known. According to a 2006 study in the journal Pediatrics, there were, on average, 17,000 school bus-related injuries treated in U.S. emergency rooms annually from 2001 to 2003, with motor vehicle crashes accounting for 42.3% of them. A 2009 report by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies states that data from 1991-1999 indicates that, on average, five children are killed each year while rising in a school bus; 15 more pedestrian children are killed annually in school bus-related accidents.
Source: CBS News
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