Six children’s lives were lost in the recent Chattanooga school bus crash after the driver strayed from his designated route, swerved and slammed sideways into a tree. The horrific crash, which injured dozens of other children, was a result of speeding and reckless driving, leaving families and the country in shock and mourning.
This devastating tragedy is an important reminder as to why school bus seat belts should be required by law in every state across the country. It’s astonishing only six states in the country have school bus seat belt laws, according to the Office of Legislative Research Report.
These states include California, Florida, Louisiana, New York and Texas. Of the six, only California and Texas require 3-point seat belts. Many of these states only require seat belts for buses manufactured after a certain date. Florida, for example, only requires seat belts on new school buses purchased on or after January 1, 2001.
IMMI, the leading provider of seat belts in the school bus industry, has simulated bus crashes using dummies to see the effects of wearing a seat belt versus not wearing a seat belt. IMMI’s research “shows that in general lap-shoulder belts can reduce injury and death by 50 percent.”
Many argue seat belts on school buses aren’t necessary since death and injury from school buses are rare. 25 million children ride school buses each year. Of those 25 million, 7,200 are injured and four die, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
In the grand scheme of things, four deaths a year in any category is extremely low. But tell that to the mothers and fathers who lost their children in Chattanooga incident; suddenly the numbers don’t matter. One child lost is too many. Seat belts have the potential to save children’s lives and to not provide standard automobile seat belts is absurd.
Aside from crashes, seat belts on school buses can decrease distracted driving, dissuade bullying and allow more control of the school bus environment. When large groups of energetic, rowdy, rambunctious kids are together with no supervision and no restraint, issues easily arise.
We can all remember the school bus experience. Children were running up and down the isles, jumping from seat to seat, screaming, yelling and fighting, all while the driver was trying to focus on the road. The bus driver’s eyes would be in the mirror more than they were on the road. Instead of focusing on the safety of his driving, the driver was trying to play referee to a bus full of children.
Children should be given a solid foundation of safety and it starts with seat belts. Seat belts not only save lives and prevent injury, but can help maintain a more secure, stable and positive environment. School buses shouldn’t be a free for all.
Allowing children free reign of the seats and aisles not only prevents the bus driver from properly doing his job but creates an unsafe environment for children trying to get to school. Seat belts could have potentially saved those children in Chattanooga and they can save children in the future too.