The Chattanooga, Tennessee bus crash that killed six elementary school children has once again brought up the decades-long debate about seat belts on school buses. In fact, Tennessee lawmaker, Representative Gerald McCormick, wants to see legislation drafted which would require students to be buckled in on a bus.
Only six states require seat belts on buses right now (California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, and Texas) Ohio isn't one of them.
Father of two, Edric Morales, doesn’t see why it hasn’t happened yet.
“They could always have seat belts just like in roller coasters that you can quickly release. What if there’s a case where the bus rolls over or there’s a tragic accident, what happens then? The kids just roll around the bus?”
The president of Hudson-based “School Bus Safety Company,” said the statistics show why a school bus is the safest form of transportation for children.
Jeffrey Cassell said nationwide, about five kids a year die riding a school bus. He said to compare that to the 800 students who are killed every year going to and from school by other means like biking, walking, or riding as a passenger in a car.
Cassell’s company trains school bus drivers in 3,000 school districts nationwide, 100 districts here in Ohio. He said the school bus itself is built like a tank and seat belts aren’t necessary.
“The cushioning, the absorption, the speed, the size of the bus, we don't need them…they very rarely travel above 30 miles an hour because they are delivering kids to and from school."
Cassell points out if a fire breaks out on a bus or if it crashes into water kids would be trapped with their seat belts on. Plus, he said, sometimes, kids don’t wear a seatbelt correctly.
"If they wear it across the neck or across the abdomen you are five times more likely to die than if you didn't have a seatbelt on in the first place."
Just one year ago this month, for the first time ever, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (NHTSA) endorsed three-point seat belts on school buses.
In a statement released to news 5, spokesperson, Kathryn Henry with the NHTSA said:
“Seat belts save lives, it’s as simple as that. There are a lot of promising discussions that have taken place around the country since NHTSA came out strongly in support of seat belts on school buses. The regulatory challenge here is that deaths and serious injuries in school buses are extremely rare – the school bus is far and away the safest method for kids to get to and from school. And there are real concerns about costs. But NHTSA is working with the states that do mandate seat belts on school buses to learn ways to deal with costs and other factors.”
According to Cassell, “NAPT (National Association for Pupil Transportation) estimates it would cost between $7,000 and $11,000 per bus to add seat belts. If we use the average of $9,000 times 480,000 school buses, this equals $4.3 billion.”
For parents like, Jackie Moujib, you can't put a price tag on a child's safety.
"If I have to put the buckle on no matter what, they should have to too. If we can do whatever we can do to make it possible to make sure they get to their education back and forth home safe, then that's what we need to do."