By Chairman Christopher A. Hart
The NTSB and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have long agreed that seat belts save lives. However, progress regarding the installation of seat belts on school buses has been slow and uncertain.
School buses are the safest way to transport students to and from school. They are safe in most circumstances because of a design philosophy called compartmentalization. However, the NTSB’s school bus accident investigations have revealed that compartmentalization provides inadequate protection in severe side impact crashes and high-speed rollovers. In those situations, adding passenger lap and shoulder belts can greatly improve safety on school buses.
On Sunday, NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind spoke to a large group of school bus association members at the NAPT/NASDPTS Joint Session in Richmond, Virginia. He stated “Seat belts save lives, and that includes seat belts on school buses.” He further committed to a simple principle: “that all kids deserve seat belts on their school bus.”
The NTSB is encouraged by NHTSA’s announcement. In the Chesterfield, New Jersey, crash report, the NTSB called on NASDPTS, NAPT, and National School Transportation Association to provide their members with educational materials on lap and shoulder belts and to advise states or school districts to consider this added safety benefit when purchasing seat belt-equipped school buses. Administrator Rosekind also called for the school bus associations to move forward on this safety issue.
Our children deserve the highest level of safety no matter what vehicle they are riding in. A properly worn lap and shoulder belt will provide each child the best protection and make school buses even safer.