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Can Seat Belts Limit Personal Injuries in School Bus Accidents?

Casey Woodruff

undefinedAs many Chicago families whose children rely on school buses for transportation know, seat belts are not a common feature of these vehicles. But could installing seatbelts in more school buses help to prevent personal injuries in the event of a serious accident? According to a recent report from ABC News, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently “endorsed seat belts on all American school buses for the first time.” Seat belts may not help to prevent a serious school bus accident from taking place, but they may help to limit the number of personal injuries sustained by children each year.

NHTSA Emphasizes Seat Belts for School Bus Safety

When the NHTSA endorsed seat belts on school buses, it emphasized that “saving lives” was at the heart of its message. As such, according to NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind, “NHTSA’s policy is that every child on every school bus should have a three-point seat belt.” That is no small task, as approximately 25 million kids rely on school buses for transportation each morning across the country, and a large majority of them do not have the option of using a seat belt.

Right now, only six states in the nation require that school buses have seat belts, and Illinois is not one of those states. Accordingly, not too many Chicago school-age children have the opportunity to buckle up once they board a school bus. California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, and Texas are the only states that require school buses to have seat belts installed.

The recent seat belt endorsement from the NHTSA represents a change in the administration’s position. Previously, the NHTSA “determined that because buses are heavier and sit higher than cars, passengers were safe without seat belts.” Other studies confirmed this result, suggesting that “high seat backs,” which are present in school buses, “keep children from being thrown around in crashes.” Now, however, the NHTSA has underscored that wearing a seat belt on the school bus could in fact save your child’s life, or at least save her from sustaining serious personal injuries in the event of a traffic collision.

Costs and Consequences of Installing School Bus Seat Belts

How much will it cost to retrofit school buses across the country with seat belts? The price is relatively steep. Experts estimate that such an operation “could cost between $7,000 and $10,000 per bus.” When we take into account the price for retrofitting every school bus that is currently in use, Americans are looking at a total cost in the billions.

But if the NHTSA is right and seat belts could prevent severe and life-threatening personal injuries, many parents are likely to agree that the cost is worth it. An article from WebMD highlights the ability for three-point restraints—meaning seat belts that “go over the shoulder and lap” could help to prevent child injuries and fatalities when school bus accidents happen.

If your child suffered personal injuries in a school bus accident, it is important to speak with an experienced Chicago personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Contact Woodruff Johnson & Evans to learn more about how we can assist with your case.

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