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NHTSA rejects petition to add seat belts to school buses

Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for New Jersey schoolchildren which has some safety advocates wondering why school buses aren’t equipped with seat belts. Almost a half million school buses are used nationwide to transport students over 4 million miles over the course of the school year. The majority of these buses do not have child safety restraints however which has led school bus safety advocates to cry foul.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently rejected a petition led by the National Coalition for School Bus Safety to add seat belts to buses nationwide.

“It just confirms the long history of NHTSA in opposition to child restraints in school buses,” said Arthur Yeager of the school bus coalition. “There is a certain hypocrisy in their supporting seat belts in virtually every other type of vehicle under their control except for school buses.”

The NHTSA said that it is committed to student safety but noted that seat belts will not significantly reduce the amount of school bus related deaths. According to the NHTSA, under 20 schoolchildren die in bus accidents every year and the majority of these deaths could not be prevented by seat belts because the child is either run over by the school bus or hit by an object that a seat belt would not protect the child against.

Yeager of the bus coalition said that seat belts may help cut down on loading zone run-overs by restraining children within the bus.

“There is accident after accident where we can document that the cause has been school bus driver distraction,” Yeager said. “More kids are killed when their own school bus drives over them than by other drivers. Some of those kids are killed because the driver is distracted by kids jumping up and down on the bus.”

Source: Washington Post, “Feds reject request to require seat belts on school buses,” Ashley Halsey III, Aug. 25, 2011

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