Sussex County Delaware

Why No Seat Belts
on School Buses?


 
Sussex Beat, Sept. 4, 2000

NOTE: Sussex Beat is a mix of news, analysis and commentary by Eric Magill, publisher of Sussex County Online.

CURRENT SUSSEX BEAT:

Eric Magill, Sussex County Online

By ERIC MAGILL
SC Online
Publisher

School's Open ...

No one should have to be reminded to be especially careful on the roads when the 2000-2001 school year begins on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2000.

But judging by some of the incidents we've witnessed in the past few years, some drivers need a serious reminder.

We've seen everything from drivers passing stopped school buses to the worst offenders, who not only pass a stopped bus, but pass it ON THE SHOULDER!

But stupidity when it comes to school buses isn't limited to a few kooks.

Our elected officials don't concern themselves with school bus safety, either.

The same officials who want police officers to stop you for not wearing your seat belt in your car in Delaware haven't uttered a peep about the lack of seat belts on school buses in our state.

The state's highway safety web sites have volumes of information about using seat belts in private vehicles, but not one word about seat belts on school buses. You won't find a word about school bus safety on the state's Office of Highway Safety page or the Delaware Department of Transportation site.

Just imagine the punishment state officials would impose on parents for not having their children in seat belts or children's seats in their own cars. Yet parents are expected to put their children on a big yellow bus, with all kinds of room to bounce around, WITHOUT A SEAT BELT!

Amazingly, those state officials who insist that seat belts prevent more serious injuries and deaths in cars blindly accept studies that suggest seat belts won't make much of a difference on a school bus.

At the same time, they ignore studies that show that seat belts on school buses result in greater seat belt usage by students in their family vehicles, improved behavior by preventing students from moving around, and improved safety. They also ignore the endorsement of seat belts on school buses by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatricians, and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

Our federal government isn't much better, as it has failed to act on H.R. 165, which would ban the sale or manufacture of school buses without seat buses. The last action on that resolution was in January 1999, when it was referred to the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade and Consumer Protection.

It is time for our state officials, beginning with Gov. Thomas R. Carper, to end the hypocritical stance on seat belts and either equip all school buses with seat belts or stop harassing motorists who don't care to use seat belts in their vehicles.

They can't cite cost as an obstacle, not in an era of unprecedented prosperity in the state. The Busbelts Development Corporation, which manufactures the 3-Point Harness System for large school buses, says its system would cost approximately $2,500 to retrofit an entire bus. With just over 1,500 school buses in Delaware, that system would cost the state a little more than $3.75 million, or just under $40 per student.

We imagine it would also reduce our schools' auto insurance premiums. The system is endorsed by the National Coalition for School Bus Safety and the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transporation Services.

You can't have it both ways. If seat belts are so important in cars, they should be even more important on school buses.


Get Involved ...

You can get involved in the school bus seat belt issue by writing Delaware Gov. Thomas R. Carper, or your state representative or senator, to urge the installation of seat belts on all school buses in the state. Following are web pages with contact information as well as a petition of support for H.R. 165, which requires seat belts on all new school buses, from the Busbelt Development Corporation.

Related Links ...


Your Opinion ...

You can voice your opinion on county issues in the Sussex County Online Forum or cast your vote on various Sussex County issues on our online poll. Just follow the links below to make your voice heard and your vote count:


Sites Not to be Missed ...

The Center for Responsive Politics has compiled Federal Election Commission data to reveal how much money 2000 federal and state political candidates have raised and what major groups the money comes from. The site is available at http://www.opensecrets.org.


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