What a load of rubbish!

Why don’t school buses have seatbelts?

Our school bus crashed on Friday.

It was a dark and rainy afternoon and the bus, with 46 high school children on board, went off the road (on a notorious black spot on the highway) and into a ditch. There were no serious injuries but the bus driver and about 10 children went to hospital with shock and bruises. The children had to wait in the rain until alternative transportation was arranged. The bus was later towed away.

The bus had been on its way to pick up the school children from our primary school and to take everyone, along dangerous rural roads, to our little town. My children don’t get the bus (our son’s ASD makes bus travel complicated, for a number of reasons which I won’t go into here). I’m glad the primary school children weren’t on the bus when it came off the road. It would have been quite scary for them.

The thing that annoys me is that the bus doesn’t have seatbelts. In fact many school buses in Australia and around the world don’t have seatbelts.

I did some research on the internet to find out why this is the case and some of the arguments are a bit suspect. Here are a few:

  1. It is safer without seatbelts (e.g., in the event of an accident younger children may not be able to release the seatbelt and they might be trapped in the bus);
  2. Children come in all shapes and sizes and seatbelts would have to be adjusted to provide the correct protection (the seatbelt might cause damage if not fitted correctly);
  3. Seats on buses are compartmentalised (close and high-backed padded seats provide sufficient protection in a crash) – note, this ignores the effects of rear-end, lateral and rollover collisions;
  4. Seatbelts are too expensive to install in older buses;
  5. Children won’t wear seatbelts even if they are installed in the bus;
  6. Bullying is rife on school buses and some children may use the seatbelts as weapons (to choke or restrain other children);

You know what I think! I think that money is the main reason seatbelts are not installed on buses. That is not a good enough reason.

What are we waiting for? Why do we always have to have fatalities before we fix things like black spots on the road, or make it mandatory that school buses have seatbelts.

What do you think?

24 thoughts on “Why don’t school buses have seatbelts?

    1. Haha – yes Nigel, I would love my kids to walk 50km a day through the country side ducking magpies, emus and the odd crazed kangaroo, but some might say it’s a bit much (in my day I walked 250km there and back to school – bwahahaha – and that was an easy stretch – everyone is far too soft these days) πŸ˜‰ thanks for stopping by.

  1. I completely agree with you Gabrielle. I think the real reason is the money … and a bit of ‘playing the odds’ that a really horrible accident won’t occur.

    All school buses should most definitely be fitted with seatbelts … it’s the only sensible option really.

    I’m glad to hear that everyone is safe.

  2. aloha Gabrielle – yeah, fortunate that the smaller kids were not on board yet. blind spots in roads are something i think may be able to be fixed. i agree on that.

    yeah too, in theory it seems like it makes sense to have seat belts on school buses and public transportation. in reality i suspect it isnt any one issue that makes enough sense not to do it, it’s multiple issues that make the complexity of the situation difficult to succeed – and yeah, there might be a cost/effectiveness issue in that reasoning some place too.

    even if belts were only required to be added to new buses coming on the road after a specific date there are still a lot of issues with ensuring compliance and appropriate use. do parents get fined if a child doesnt buckle up or is caught unbuckling while the bus is moving? and who enforces that kind of issue? what if a child pushes the button that unbuckles another child’s belt?

    as you point out some of the points against seat belts do not take all situations into consideration. they only take one part of the issue and point that out – that part is an issue to some degree. when there are a lot of these, then it becomes more difficult to address all of the issues successfully.

    even in the USA where warning labels and safety can go over board at times (coffee containers have to have a warning that the coffee may be hot and you might get burned if it spills on you…?? right, i better read that one every time. …just to make sure i know – unless i cant read uh-oh). even in the USA most public transportation and school buses do not have seat belts. even in taxis which have to have seat belts, the driver is not required to enforce buckling up. in a private vehicle if your passenger does not buckle up the driver can be fined – $1oo in hawaii.

    i think there are other issues as well. for instance if a child doesnt buckle the seat belt, does the driver have to stop until the child is buckled up? and how long a drive might that take if kids decide not to buckle up just to hassle the driver – or… to be late enough to miss a test or some other school activity? how late will that make the last kids on the bus arriving to school or home and is that okay? should the driver be held responsible if a child isnt buckled up appropriately? does the driver have to check each child at each stop to see that the child is buckled up right and how do you make sure it stays that way? is another employee needed for this and how much would that cost? how do you enforce and ensure that if there are seat belts, that they are used appropriately? what happens if one child is buckled and other straps are left open in near by empty seats and there is a collision? will kids get tangled up trying to get out of a dangerous situation bus? could a child be tired in by other kids so the child cant get off at their stop? does the bus driver have to undo this knot?

    yeah, it makes sense to have buckles and buckle up. i’m not sure how it can be done appropriately. the bus wont start unless all occupied seats are buckled? it makes sense to have seat belts, i’m not sure how to go about it so that it works the way it’s intended to work.

    it’s not just a single issue that makes it difficult to accomplish. it’s a lot of issues. is the school libel if a child isnt buckled up appropriately and is injured whether in or not in an accident? when these issues can be resolved so that only money remains – then i dont think money would be an issue.

    different populations are likely to respond differently to seat belts. in some populations it might work fine. in others it might not. making one law or rule that works for all areas might be difficult.

    i wonder if some seats, a section of seats could be belted and monitored. may be some size areas designated for smaller kids and larger kids? and gradually work seat belts in this way?

    yeah, i’d like seat belts on all transportation if we can ensure reasonable and appropriate use and safety. if ensuring appropriate use and prevention of miss use can not be resolved then i think we may be creating more problems than we solve by adding seat belts. some of these problems, whether or not there is an actual accident, may even be as dangerous as the situation the belt is intended to prevent.

    most of this is not a comforting thought – but it is unfortunately a lot how our world works today. how we change that… might take a lot of change in our world. may be we can work on that.

    1. Thankyou Rick for such a comprehensive and thoughtful response. I gathered from my research that it was incredibly complicated. I should have written in my blog post that litigation is one of the other major issues – the fear that the bus driver or school will be sued if the child doesn’t or won’t wear the seatbelt. I still think these issues are all surmountable with a bit of common sense, effort and the taking of personal responsibility and obviously there are seatbelts in a lot of buses, so someone has worked out that it is feasible to do so, despite the legal issues. My husband tells me that truck drivers also don’t wear seatbelts, so the whole area of large vehicles appears more complicated than you would think on the surface. Thanks Rick πŸ™‚

      1. aloha Gabrielle – yeah. i think common sense is a good point. a lot of things would be easy. well. easier if human beings functioned more along these common sense lines. i suspect in big groups of people the extremes get further and further out there, further and further apart – so less and less common sense may be found in more and more cases as the human population expands?. . .

        kids usually have reasonably good common sense, they just dont always use it in our society today. especially in some of those turmoil years of “growing up”.

        adults… on the other hand…. may be worse. does speeding make common sense? or road-rage? or driving while talking on a cell phone? and what about smoking even for that matter?

        imagine the law suits possible if society could convict for acting with a lack of common sense.

        yeah, it would be simple to put seat belts in if human beings followed common sense a little more. both installing and using would be no problem. there probably wouldnt be any lawsuits either. wow. the world might change a lot if common sense were in the mix more often. of course… one person’s common sense is another person’s dread i suppose. yikes.

        yeah. i think it’s worthwhile considering how to do seat belts. why would adult human beings not want to do that for kids or other adults for that matter? that doesnt make sense.

        it may be that we are coming to a point where we’ve learned we can stop anything by simply looking at both sides of an issue and debating it. we cant do it until it’s done being debated. so as long as someone can say “what about xyz, i’m not okay with that” then it cant be done. may be we just have to all want to do it.

        1. Yes Rick, most things are achievable if we ‘want to do it’ and you are right about the debating thing – it’s like statistics, you can always find some statistics or some obscure research article to support an argument (cherry picking to suit your side). Thanks again for your thoughtful comment – I like to look at both sides to an argument. Maybe a compromise would be to have seatbelts on buses that are used in rural areas, where the roads are shocking and the speeds of travel are much greater – our school bus is travelling 100km most of the trip and if you crash at that speed, you sure want a seatbelt. In the cities it is different as the bus would probably be fine in a crash with other vehicles. Cheers πŸ™‚

  3. This has been a question where I live, in New England, for decades. Children are totally in the habit of buckling up in their cars. There would be no problem enforcing it on buses. It is a money issue. A couple of the wealthiest towns around here have decided to put seatbelts in their school buses. Most other towns can’t afford it.

    1. Thanks squirrel – exactly, when they have the money they do put in the seatbelts and the poor are the ones who suffer the health consequences (as usual – ‘the rich get richer and the poor get the picture’). It also sends a mixed message to children when they are so used to wearing seatbelts in cars (second nature) and then they don’t have to in buses. There is also much more opportunity for mucking about when you don’t have your seatbelt on (even though they can take them off, they are less likely too if everyone else is wearing theres).

  4. I have always wondered about this, Gabrielle. There are so many more bits to hurt yourself on a bus and so much further to fly even in a minor collision. Glad none of the children were hurt. bb

  5. Oh Gabe, that is terrible. Am so glad all of the children and the driver were okay, but the shock of something like this is something that lasts a very long time. I hope there is some counselling being offered by the school.

  6. We in South Africa have our bus accidents too and it is dreadful to read about them when they happen, especially when they involve children. Money aside, I think noone wants to take responsibility for ensuring that the children use seat belts.

  7. Hope the school council gets a say in what the parents & the rest of the school community want. Happy to hear no one was badly hurt.

    1. There is a bus committee that meets regularly – the bus driver hasn’t returned – too much for him I think – that had to get a replacement driver and a few kids are getting lifts to school now. Thanks Jane.

  8. I think that’s a load of nonsense as to why seatbelts aren’t installed in buses. It’s all to do with money. I used to work for a local council and managed to get seatbelts in all the buses (after a lot of nagging.) The seatbelts they have nowadays are very high tech, adjust according to weight and height, cannot be pulled out to be used as weapons (they sit flush against the seat when not in use) and can be released with oner click that even a 4 year old can manage.

    I am so sorry to hear about the accident. That really is terrible. I hope the kids weren’t too traumatised. Poor things.

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