Seat Belts On School Buses Are A No-Brainer, But No Law Requires Them

by Valerie Williams
Image via Shutterstock

Have you ever wondered why your kids aren’t required to wear a seat belt on the school bus? It’s never been a federal law, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has finally come out with the recommendation that all school buses have seat belts. This could be a catalyst for some big changes with bus safety requirements.

From The Hill, NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind says, “NHTSA has not always spoken with a clear voice on the issue of seat belts on school buses. So let me clear up any ambiguity now: The position of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is that seat belts save lives.”

Isn’t it strange that the NHTSA is only just now saying this? Is it not obvious that seat belts save lives? And that of all vehicles, those ferrying children to and from school should have them?

Rosekind goes on to say, “That is true whether in a passenger car or in a big yellow bus. And saving lives is what we are about. So NHTSA’s policy is that every child on every school bus should have a three-point seat belt. NHTSA will seek to use all the tools at our disposal to help achieve that goal, and today I want to launch a nationwide effort to get us there.”

The National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) responded in a way that agrees with the NHTSA in theory, but acknowledges that it should be dealt with at the state and local level rather than a federal one. In their statement, they said “States and local school districts are better able to recognize and analyze school transportation risks particular to their areas and identify approaches to best manage and reduce those safety risks.” This is reasonable. Each individual district must have its own situations where seat belts might make more or less sense. Although I have trouble imagining any scenario where a child wearing a seat belt wouldn’t be the preferred situation.

As a parent and even as a kid riding a school bus, I’ve often wondered why seat belts are either non-existent, or present, but their use unenforced. It seems like a total no-brainer that our children, who by law are required to use booster seats in our vehicles until a certain age, can go entirely without restraints of any kind on the school bus. It’s hard to understand why seat belt usage on buses hasn’t become law yet.

Besides financial considerations, the only reason I can come up with for this not being law is the difficulty of enforcing seat belt usage. Unless all buses had monitors, the driver can’t possibly be sure the kids are using them. But maybe that’s something schools should consider implementing as well. So far, both of my kids have dealt with bullying issues on the bus and the driver is unable to do much because he’s busy driving. It would make sense for another adult to be present to deal with bullying issues and help ensure that kids wear their seat-belts. Many kids spend so much time on a bus for the 13 years they’re in school. Our tax dollars should go toward making certain they’re as safe as possible. I know I’d happily pay for it.