ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Any time you get in the car, your first reaction should be to buckle-up. Many of us are so used to it that we unconsciously put on the seatbelt every time, but when children get on a school bus it’s a different story.
School bus safety is now in the spotlight after a deadly crash in Texas. Two students died and many others were injured when their bus veered off a Houston overpass. Officials said the bus was equipped with seatbelts but riders weren’t required to wear them.
Rochester bus accident attorneys at Cellino & Barnes say seatbelts have been proven to save lives and they could instill safety habits in a child’s routine.
“Seatbelts can be a vehicle’s top safety feature but many school buses aren’t even equipped with these in Rochester,” bus accident lawyer Ross Cellino said. “There’s no good reason not to wear a seatbelt.”
Researchers across the country have concluded that seatbelts would make school buses safer but implementation may be unrealistic.
A study conducted by the National Research Council in 1989 rejected seatbelt requirements in school buses because it would cost taxpayers $40 million each year. Almost thirty years later, it would almost certainly cost more than the original estimate and researchers have suggested using these funds to make safety improvements to loading and unloading zones where fatal accidents are more likely to occur.
There’s also the challenge of getting students to properly wear seatbelts.
“Enforcement by the driver is almost impossible,” an Alabama study on the subject noted. “Costs far exceed benefits, and school bus seat belts appear to be less cost-effective than other types of safety treatments.”
Some bus unions disagree. One Houston union is lobbying for immediate changes following the tragic accident. Union leaders would like to standardize ‘three-point’ seatbelts on buses. This type of safety belt uses the shoulder strap, equipped in most driver and passenger seats in a car.
“If seatbelts can make school buses safer, why not do it?” Cellino says, “a child’s life may depend on these safety features.”
Depending on the accident, attorneys say the school district may be held liable for injuries on their school buses.