After the bus accident in Chattanooga last November that killed six students and injured more, the Tennessee Legislature has been working on bills that would increase bus safety.
On Tuesday, a House committee approved a measure that would require that all new school buses be equipped with seatbelts. It could come to a full vote this session.
However, some lawmakers have expressed concern that the seat belts could trap children if a crash occurred. And in fact there is evidence that passengers in school buses, without seat belts, are much safer than the average person on the road:
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
The [school bus’s safety] record is impressive: American students are nearly eight times safer riding in a school bus than with their own parents and guardians in cars. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “School Bus Safety: Crashworthiness Research.” April 2002. Link.)
The American School Bus Council, on its web site, explains why school buses have evolved not to have seat belts:
School buses are carefully designed on a different transportation and protection model than the average passenger car. The children are protected like eggs in an egg carton – compartmentalized and surrounded with padding and structural integrity to secure the entire container. The seat backs are raised and the shell is reinforced for protection against impact.
There are other differences to consider between your car and your child’s school bus. In your car, you can supervise your child and ensure that your child’s belt remains properly secured. School buses use what is called “passive restraint,” meaning all a child must do to be protected is simply sit down in a seat. School buses also must be designed to be multi-purpose, fitting everything from a six-year-old to an 18 year-old senior on the high school football team in full uniform.
Another bill, pushed by Gov. Bill Haslam that would require more oversight of bus drivers, passed this week unanimously in the House and will go to the State Senate.