Lap-shoulder belts are important to the safety of children on school buses and offer a completely different form of protection than lap belts.
For anything more than a low speed frontal crash, compartmentalization offers limited protection -- and virtually no protection in a rollover crash.
Research by NHTSA indicates that lap-shoulder belts, in every vehicle in which they have ever been introduced, reduce injuries and fatalities by 45 percent in all types of crashes – and up to 70 percent in rollover crashes.
NHTSA has stated “We would recommend that pupil transportation providers consider installing lap-shoulder belts on large school buses because of the enhancements that lap-shoulder belts could make to school buses.”
The 1999 National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Special Investigation Report concludes: “Current compartmentalization is incomplete in that it does not protect school bus passengers during lateral impacts with vehicles of large mass and in rollovers, because in such accidents, passengers do not always remain completely within the seating compartment.”
Building a Lifelong Habit
For most children, their first ride on the school bus is the first time they ever ride unrestrained in a motor vehicle. In other words, the only place a child is taught to not wear a seat belt is in school transportation.
To allow school bus passengers to remain unrestrained gives a contradictory message to our children – that seat belts can be unnecessary inside a moving vehicle.
When our children get on the bus and don’t buckle up, the habit of seat belt use is not reinforced, and we miss a prime training opportunity. School buses can be an important extension of the classroom for training children to build this critical lifelong habit.
According to NHTSA, young drivers -- ages 15- to 20-years old -- are especially vulnerable to death and injury on our roadways. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in America – and teens are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers.
In 2006 alone, about 3,000 U.S. teens died in auto accidents while driving unbelted. Since we know that lap and shoulder belts reduce injuries and fatalities by at least 45 percent, it follows that about 1,500 of those teens may be alive today had they buckled up while driving. This is the entire high school population of many school districts.
Seat Belts and Behavior
Drivers who have experienced the addition of lap-shoulder belts to their school buses agree – there is no greater deterrent to unruly behavior than keeping children in their seats.
Typical unruly bus behavior includes standing, sitting on the edge of the seat, changing seats, kneeling in the seat and turning around in the seat. Children who are buckled simply cannot do these things.
The single biggest school bus safety concern for parents is the lack of seat belts, with 80 percent of parents in the ASBC poll saying all school buses should be equipped with lap-shoulder belts.
Second in the minds of parents is a concern about discipline problems, an issue that is proven to be strongly impacted by the addition of seat belts to the bus.
Increasing School Bus Ridership
Parents have a strong preference for keeping their children restrained in lap-shoulder belts in all moving vehicles.
Some actually opt outof sending their children on the school bus and instead transport them using their personal vehicles. This actually could increase the risks to children as they travel to and from school.
Although school buses are recognized as being safe, the addition of lap and shoulder belts can make them safer.
Parents overwhelmingly favor a national standard for lap-shoulder belts in large school buses.
More than 50 percent of parents have concerns about school bus safety, with the lack of seat belts as the single biggest concern.
80 percent believe all school buses should be equipped with lap-shoulder belts.
60 percent do not believe that riding on a school bus is as safe as riding in a car.
Source: American School Bus Council parent poll, December 2006
You Can Make a Difference!
Learn how you can advocate for lap-shoulder belts on school buses in your community.
The Facts to Buckle Up America – Safety Belts and Teens 2003 Report, DOT HS 809 578
Federal Register, November 21, 2002, page 65513
Bus Crashworthiness Issues; NTSB/SIR-99/04, Conclusions, p. 68-69