The State of Alabama has released the long-awaited school bus safety study. The study found that school buses are safe enough without seat belts. It was stated in the report that students in many cases ignore a requirement to wear the seat belts. The study also found that the straps would save the life of about one child every eight years. This study was ordered by Governor Bob Riley after four students were killed in 2006 in a school bus crash in Huntsville. We were involved in the litigation that rose from the crash and as a result know about what happened. The bus was not equipped with seat belts.
Following that accident, federal transportation officials required new, smaller school buses to be equipped with lap-and-shoulder belts by 2011. Larger buses are to have higher seat backs. The three-year study showed putting belts on most buses is expensive – about $11,000 to $15,000 per bus, and requires larger seats, reducing the number of students who can sit on the bus. In many cases, the study found that students don’t put on the belts and drivers complained they couldn’t see the children. Dan Turner, a retired University of Alabama professor, led the study. It’s being reported that the study was expected to guide school transportation officials around the country. Georgia officials had said following a recent accident they were waiting for the Alabama study’s results before deciding on whether to recommend seat belts on buses.
The study provided buses with seat belts for ten Alabama school systems and determined school buses were the safest way for students to get to school, partly because of the vehicles’ height, size and design. In effect, students are compartmentalized in their seats. In Alabama, there are 7,341 buses on the road, driving more than 457,000 miles a day. The study said there have been five deaths since 1977. Researchers said it would be more cost-effective to spend money making the process of loading students on and off the buses safer.
I believe that seat belts on all school buses would make them safer for children. It seems sort of strange to say that even if available children wouldn’t use them. Hopefully, the cost versus safety issue didn’t dictate the outcome of the Alabama study. Knowing the reputation of the author, however, I have to believe it didn’t. In any event, don’t expect to see seat belts on Alabama school buses anytime soon. The companies that manufacture school buses have opposed requiring seat belts for years and I suspect they like the outcome of the Alabama study.
Source: Associated Press
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