With so many seat belt laws, it may be surprising to learn that seat belts are rarely found in buses. Many would find the lack of seat belts in a standard automobile alarming, but on buses it’s quite commonplace. Legally, school buses are not required to have seat belts, and in some types of accidents, they would not have a significant impact the results of the crash.
Why Aren’t Seat Belts Required?
A 2002 study by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests that seat belts do not have the same affect on reducing injury in bus crashes as they do in accidents involving other smaller vehicles. Specifically, the NHTSA study discussed lap belts used during front-end collisions. The study also concluded that lap-to-shoulder seat belts could reduce the chance of severe neck and abdominal injuries in the event of a crash and that safety restraints could reduce the chance of a fatal rollover accident. That being said, the NHTSA believed, and continues to state, that compartmentalization is a viable safety measure for school bus passengers.
New Laws Requiring Seat Belts on Buses
Although the NHTSA is not a proponent of mandatory seat belts in school buses, some states have started to make them a requirement. In fact, Florida, New York, Louisiana, New Jersey, Texas and California all require that seat belts be installed on school buses. Additionally, federal law now mandates that seat belts be installed on smaller buses (less than 10,000 pounds).
Furthermore, in light of recent bus accidents, there has been a renewed interest in increasing safety and reducing accidents involving school buses and commercial buses. Currently, the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act has been proposed, which would require additional safety measures in coach buses, including seat belts. In addition, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has advised mandatory seat belts in newly manufactured buses (coach buses) to reduce the number of severe injuries caused by bus accidents and increase passenger safety.
If your child has been injured in a school bus accident, it is important to speak to an experienced Brookhaven personal injury attorney to discuss your case. A lawyer can investigate the crash, determine who may be liable for your child’s injuries and help you protect your child’s rights.