When parents send their children off to school on a school bus for the first time, many are surprised to learn that like when they were children, most school buses are still not equipped with seatbelts.
Instead, most school buses depend on the “compartmentalized seating standard” for safety, which refers to the way school buses are designed. On school buses, the high-backed, well-padded seats are said to absorb impact in the case of an accident.
Based mostly on this reasoning, only a few states require large school buses to be equipped with seatbelts. However, there has recently been higher demand for seatbelts in school buses, School Transportation News reported.
Part of the demand is based upon investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) into two fatal school bus accidents in 2012. The NTSB concluded that compartmentalization was ineffective at protecting the students in three situations: upon impact from the side, in rollovers and from ejections.
In 2011, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began requiring three-point seatbelts, which are believed to be the safest type of seatbelts for students on school buses, on small bus models and it is possible that the requirement could include large school buses at some point in the future.
Right now, the NHTSA recommends that states and school districts decide to voluntarily install three-point belts on all school buses. Of course, this is an expensive addition to school buses, so many states and districts have been hesitant to do so.
As we discussed in an article on our website, in 2010, Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell signed a bill into law that offers incentives to districts that provide seatbelts on their school buses; however, seatbelts are not currently mandated on school buses in the state.
Interestingly, the Connecticut School Transportation Association disagreed with the bill, and explained why it thinks that seatbelts can actually be dangerous for students on school buses on its website.