NHTSA: Seat belts now recommended in school buses

Washington State is one of many that do not require school bus seat belts. The NHTSA has recently recommended seat belts in all school buses.

Countless parents across the country entrust the safety of their children to school bus drivers and the vehicles themselves. It may seem strange that with what is known about seat belts and their lifesaving capabilities, school buses in most states, including Washington, don't have seat belts.

A recent recommendation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration aims to change this. According to NBC News, officials from the NHTSA say that seat belts should be included in all school buses across the country. This is not only to better protect children in motor vehicle crashes but to keep the message consistent in everyone's minds that seat belts should always be worn in a vehicle, regardless of the vehicle type.

Every day, children face numerous dangers when they take the bus to and from school. Without a seat belt to hold them in place, they can be thrown forward or sideways into the aisle in a violent collision. Some children may get up from their seats to move around the bus, putting themselves and others in danger. Bus drivers also make mistakes, from driving too fast in adverse weather conditions to forgetting to put the warning sign out instructing other drivers to stop.

Arguments against seat belts in buses

Not everyone is accepting of the NHTSA's recommendation. According to the National Education Association, seat belts do not necessarily improve safety for students in a school-related crash, citing the following reasons:

• School bus seat backs are designed to absorb the energy of impact in a crash.

• The high visibility of buses makes them unlikely to be hit by other drivers.

• Students might become trapped by their seat belts in a situation requiring an evacuation.

• Bus drivers would have a difficult time ensuring all students are properly wearing their seat belts.

One final argument against restraints in school buses is the rarity of serious accidents. According to USA Today, just .4 percent of all motor vehicle crashes across the country between 2004 and 2013 were related to school transportation. Only 54 children have been killed in school bus accidents since 2004. However, serious accidents such as one that occurred in Texas last September may be sufficient reason to consider school bus restraints. Two students were killed and three others injured after their bus veered off an overpass and landed on its side.

If your child is injured in a school bus accident, you may have the right to pursue legal action. You will need to contact an experienced Seattle personal injury attorney to discuss your options.