In the aftermath of a tragic school bus accident on September 16, 2015, on Interstate Highway 610 in Houston, many parents are questioning why seat belts are not standard issue on Texas school buses. In fact, most school buses throughout the U.S. are not equipped with seat belts. Federal law mandates the installation and use of seat belts in buses that weigh less than five tons; however, this represents only a small fraction of the number of buses on the road every day. Understanding the reasons why seat belts have not been implemented on buses can help ease the worries of parents. For victims of school bus accidents, however, consulting with a Houston personal injury attorney remains the best way to achieve a fair settlement for damages sustained in these serious incidents.
School Bus Statistics
In the U.S., roughly 440,000 school buses transport children to and from school on an average day. This adds up to 24 million students who ride these large vehicles every school day. The accident rate for school buses, however, is much lower than the average for all types of motor vehicles:
- On average, six students die each year in school bus accidents.
- By way of comparison, 800 students die each year while traveling to school using other methods.
- Transportation experts estimate that school buses travel over 4.3 billion miles each year, making the low rate of injuries and fatalities even more impressive.
These statistics indicate that today’s school buses must be doing something right in protecting the lives and welfare of students.
The Intuitive Design of the Modern School Bus
School buses typically sit much higher than most of the vehicles sharing the road with them. This reduces the ability of other vehicles to impact the seating areas of buses; instead, they typically collide with the underpinnings or bumpers. Rather than using seat belts to restrain children, school bus seats are designed to surround students with an insulating barrier that protects them in a collision. This thick foam layer and the close placement of seats ensure that students are confined to a small area. In this way, the foam-covered seats restrict motion in much the same way that seat belts do, making these restraint systems less necessary. Testing performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also showed that students were unlikely to use seat belts properly without supervision. Improperly worn seat belts could actually do more harm than good during a sudden stop or collision. By relying on passive compartmentalization, school buses can minimize risks while ensuring optimal protection for children on the way to and from school.
Economic Pressures Also a Factor
To accommodate seat belts, existing school buses would have to be retooled completely. Extra space would be required between seats to allow for the installation of these safety restraint devices. Most states are already struggling to provide adequate funding for schools, and Texas is no exception to this rule. Sticking with equipment that works rather than upgrading to an unproven system makes good economic sense for most school districts and state legislatures.
If you have been injured due to the negligence of another driver, seeking the assistance of a Houston accident lawyer can provide added help in achieving a fair settlement. Whether you have sustained injuries in a school bus accident, a collision with a large commercial truck or an encounter with a drunk driver, a qualified Houston car wreck lawyer can provide you with the support and guidance you need to pursue your claims both in and out of court. These dedicated professionals can provide you with the assertive representation necessary to hold drivers, insurers and transportation companies accountable for their actions and to obtain the largest possible settlement on your behalf.