Here to Help You Get Life Back On Track

Is it time for Seattle school buses to have seat belts?

On Behalf of | Sep 5, 2023 | Bus Accidents |

As children, we rode the school bus back and forth each day on seats without seatbelts. You probably did not give it much thought then. If you have school-age children, you might know that nothing has changed. Most full-size school buses driven in the U.S. do not include seatbelts for the passenger seats.

Have you ever wondered why that is or why most states, including Washington, don’t require seatbelts on school buses? It’s because of something called “compartmentalization.” That’s the term used to describe how buses are designed with padded seats placed close together. The theory is that if a bus gets into a car accident, the children will be in a kind of padded envelope that will protect them from serious injury.

Tragedies that padded seats cannot prevent

But this is far from a perfect solution, as a recent bus accident in Ohio demonstrates. The bus flipped over, killing an elementary school student and injuring nearly two dozen more. This was just the most recent tragic bus disaster to happen in the U.S., which inspired the National PTA and National Highway Transportation Board to call for new school buses to include seatbelts for everybody on board, not just the driver.

Federal regulations only require seat belts for smaller school buses. A few states, such as California and Texas, have passed laws forcing school districts to install belts on new buses. But a couple of these states have passed ineffective, unfunded laws. And the rest have no such requirement at all. It appears cost is a factor. One expert told NPR that installing three-point seatbelts with properly braced seats adds an extra $10,000 to the cost of a new school bus.

Someday, seatbelts might save lives in collisions between school buses and other vehicles. Whether it happens or not, parents will have the right to seek compensation for damages their child suffered in a bus accident.