In early June, an accident involving two school buses left 17 third-graders with minor injuries. According to reports, nearly 90 students were on their way to Museum Village in upstate New York for a field trip when debris in the roadway caused one bus to lose control. The bus was rear-ended by another bus, shattering windows and leading to the children’s injuries.
Emergency responders evaluated the health of the students after the bus accident and described the injuries as very minor, mostly cuts, bumps and bruises, but given the size of the buses involved, it could easily have been worse.
School Bus Accident Brings to Light Differences in New Jersey Law
New Jersey is one of the only states in the nation that requires all school buses to be equipped with three-point seat belts. Why is it that most states do not have such a requirement? Wouldn’t seat belts make children less likely to suffer injuries in bus accidents?
The debate surrounding school bus seat belts has been lively ever since the deadly Chattanooga bus crash in Tennessee last year, which left six children dead. Those who oppose seat belts point out that school buses are already very safe. As a matter of fact, riding in a school bus is much safer than riding in a minivan or walking to school, according to both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the American School Bus Council. Statistics show that children are 70 times more likely to get to school safely on a bus as compared to in a car.
It was only last year that the administrator of the NHTSA came out in favor of school bus seat belts. Prior to his announcement, the NHTSA stated that putting seat belts on school buses would be enormously cost-prohibitive and would do little to change the rate of fatal injuries in school bus accidents, as the majority of school bus crash victims are either pedestrians or are inside other vehicles.
Some opponents believe that seat belts could actually increase the number of children who die in school bus accidents. In rollover accidents, for example, children could be stuck up to eight feet in the air, restrained by their seat belts and unable to free themselves. In cases of fire or submersion in water, seat belts could make evacuation difficult, creating a serious risk for children.