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Should seat belts be mandatory on all Connecticut school buses?

There is nothing so precious as our children. They represent the next generation. Protecting them is a huge priority for all of us. But what's the right way to go about doing that?

In our post last week, we wrote about a horrible bus-truck accident that claimed the lives of four young college students back in 2014. The National Transportation Safety Board laid the lion's share of the blame for the crash on the truck driver. But it also observed that the bus was equipped with seat belts but that no one was wearing them. The agency said there might have been fewer deaths and injuries had the belts been in use.

The debate over seat belts on school buses is not new. But that accident, the NTSB report and a recent proclamation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has reignited the question -- should school buses be required to have seat belts?

Last month the head of NHTSA came down squarely in favor of the idea. On its face it would seem sensible. We know seat belts save lives. Why shouldn't our school buses have them? The problem is there is data that indicates it would cost millions of dollars but deliver relatively little benefit.

Anyone who has lost a loved as a result of negligence could rightly bridle at such a statement. One death is too many. But those who push back on the seat belt issue offer reasons for their position -- all backed by research.

  • Buses are very safe. School buses are designed to be safe. The chair backs are high and padded, creating compartmentalization in an impact. The vehicles' weight and height shield passengers. Few buses are involved in crashes. NHTSA estimates deaths from accidents at only six in 24 million children bused each year. The rate is about 800 for children killed walking or biking to school.
  • Kids' usage rates of bus seat belts are all over the board. An Alabama pilot project showed usage on buses with belts to be hit or miss. A look at all the equipped buses in the pilot found that in some instances, fewer than 5 percent of the children buckled up. In others, compliance was better than 92 percent. How should belting be enforced?

Connecticut does not mandate seat belts on school buses now. Should that change? What do you think?

Source: SheKnows.com, "What parents need to know about new national school bus rule," Theresa Edwards, accessed Dec. 8, 2015

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