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Steve Parker

Steve Parker

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Why There Are No Seat Belts in School Buses, And Other Safety Questions

Posted: 10/27/10 02:21 PM ET

Many of you have kids riding school buses, and a crash Monday in Los Angeles involving a fatality (a man walking in a crosswalk) raised many of the important issues facing communities with the big yellow buses.

Here's how the Los Angeles Times reported the sad event, which injured many students and the bus driver:

Criminal homicide charges are being weighed in connection with a hit-and-run accident that killed one person and injured nearly two dozen students aboard a school bus in Boyle Heights on Monday, authorities said.


The driver of a black BMW ran a red light, knocked down a pedestrian and broadsided a school bus that was returning students to Roosevelt High School, according to Miguel Luevano, a California Highway Patrol spokesman.

[...]

This fatal school bus crash in Los Angeles' famous Boyle Heights neighborhood happened just this past Monday and raised several of the questions concerning the millions of kids who ride these behemoths every day, and how safe they really are; this bus was knocked on its side and slid to a rest on top of active train tracks.

The bus driver was initially reported in serious condition; on KTTV/11 FOX News that night, his fiancé reported she had seem him and he was in good condition, and showed photos of him she had just taken and he appeared in reasonably fine fettle.

Here are just some of the issues which came to mind immediately after hearing about the crash, (and this first one should be raised by parents, at the least):

1) The crash took place at one of Los Angeles' busiest, most legendary intersections; given our recent discussion here of the admitted failure by the City of Los Angeles of their red light cameras to either slow accidents or even raise money at equipped intersections, we should all ask: were there cameras at this intersection? Could they offer a non-debatable record of the wreck itself which could include the BMW running the red light, hitting and killing the pedestrian and then flipping the bus? Or was the placement of red light cameras in this neighborhood decided on a political, not statistical basis, (as the LAPD and LA City Council have already stated happens)? Seems to me all the parties involved should get inundated with questions like these.

2) Were there seat belts on the bus?

3) Why are school bus seat belts not mandated by the government in every state?

4) How can a 3-series BMW, the second-smallest sold in the US, flip over a much more massive school bus?

5) What are the roof crash and crush standards, rollover standards and other exterior wreck standards mandated for school buses and how can we compare them to standards for, say, SUVs and other full-size SUVs and/or large crossovers? And are these standards available in plain English, not government "legalese"?

There are many other questions I'm certain you can easily come up with and comments you'd like to make; please share them here and with your local school districts. Perhaps we can start something of a national dialogue about school bus safety.

Did you know that there are school bus seat belts mandated by law in very few parts of the country, and those are always local rules?

To find out why, in a 2006 study, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration decided to not order them nationally, go here. It's information you may find very surprising and definitely interesting. Millions of kids ride buses every day and their parents (and most other people simply on the road) worry about the drivers, the buses themselves and of course, the safety of the students on-board.

In the world of transportation, protecting these kids should be among our top priorities. Even if the number of injuries and deaths is quite small, we should investigate to see if the buses could be made even safer. We all scream about what's going on in the classrooms around our country, and rightly so, but what about how the kids get to and from school as they ride these buses?

Then there was this from the AP, coincidentally released this week: "School buses are safe enough without seat belts and students in many cases ignore a requirement to wear them, according to a study in Alabama released Monday that found the straps would save the life of about one child every eight years."

Millions of kids ride them every day and their parents (and most other people simply on the road) worry about the drivers, the buses themselves and of course, the safety of the students on board.

In the world of transportation, protecting these kids should be among our top priorities. Even if the number of injuries and deaths is quite small, we should investigate to see if the buses could be made even safer. We all scream about what's going on in the classrooms around our country, and rightly so, but what about how the kids get to and from school as they ride these buses?

Right?

 

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