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Is it time to revisit the issue of school bus seat belts?

When most parents drop their children off at the bus stop in the mornings, their thoughts are more than likely focused on their impending workday or the errands that they'll have to complete by the end of the day. In other words, the last thing on their minds is the possibility that their children could be involved in some sort of serious accident, taking it for a given that they'll be safe given the sheer height and weight of the school bus.

However, following a tragic accident in Tennessee, parents across the U.S. thinking might now be thinking twice about bus safety, particularly as it relates to the issue of seat belts. 

Why hasn't the federal government made seat belts mandatory for school buses?

There are multiple reasons why the federal government has declined to make seat belts mandatory safety equipment on school buses:

  • Cost: Federal estimates show that seat belts would cost anywhere from $7,000 to $10,000 per bus.
  • Necessity: Experts indicate that the current design of school buses that has children compartmentalized and surrounded by both reinforced metal and padding -- much like eggs in a carton -- is more than sufficient, something evidenced by the fact that over 25 million children ride them every day yet fatalities number only five per year.
  • Practicality: Concerns have been raised that it would be virtually impossible for bus drivers to ensure that students were properly restrained or that children could even be trapped in the event of an accident.

Do any states require seat belts?

In addition to New Jersey, California, Louisiana, Florida, Texas and New York all require seat belts on large buses. Another ten states, including Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, West Virginia, Hawaii, Indiana, Arizona, Connecticut, and Maryland considered such legislation in 2016, but ultimately failed to pass it.

Is the federal government poised to take action?

While no federal mandate requiring seat belts on school buses is forthcoming, Mark Rosekind, Director of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, did call for three-point seat belts to be installed on all school buses last November, while the National Transportation Safety Board has made a similar recommendation.

Here's hoping that more states -- and perhaps even the federal government -- follow the lead set by New Jersey.

If you've been seriously injured in an accident caused by the reckless actions of another motorist, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can fight to secure justice on your behalf.

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