Why don’t school buses have seat belts?

Only 6 states require seat belts on buses

At least 5 students died in this school bus crash in Chattanooga, Tennessee, November 21, 2016 (via CBS)
At least 5 students died in this school bus crash in Chattanooga, Tennessee, November 21, 2016 (via CBS)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Questions abound in the wake of the Chattanooga school bus tragedy that killed at least 5 children and injured dozens more. Among those questions: Why are seat belts on buses so rare?

Only 6 states have laws requiring buses have seat belts.

School bus crashes are rare. More kids are killed as pedestrians than as riders on school buses.

In this photo provided by the Chattanooga Fire Department via Chattanooga Times Free Press, Chattanooga Fire Department personnel work the scene of a fatal elementary school bus crash in Chattanooga, Tenn., Monday, Nov. 21, 2016. In a news conference Monday, Assistant Chief Tracy Arnold said there were multiple fatalities in the crash. (Bruce Garner/Chattanooga Fire Department via Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)
In this photo provided by the Chattanooga Fire Department via Chattanooga Times Free Press, Chattanooga Fire Department personnel work the scene of a fatal elementary school bus crash in Chattanooga, Tenn., Monday, Nov. 21, 2016.  (Bruce Garner/Chattanooga Fire Department via Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)

 

Newer school buses are designed differently than in the past. The seats are much higher and have a lot more padding, and act as a protective compartment if a child is suddenly thrown forward in a crash.

The aisles are also narrower to provide more seat room for that compartment.

Portland Public Schools officials told KOIN 6 News the cost to retrofit school buses with seat belts could cost more than $2 million.

But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Administration just reversed itself. They’re now recommending lap and shoulder belts on all school buses, which are especially important if a bus flips.

“I think the conversation is gravitating toward technology that seat belts will help, and over time likely buses will be equipped with seat belts,” said Courtney Wilton, the interim director of operations for PPS.

But there is no national or state law requiring them in Oregon and Washington. However, they are on buses that transport special needs students.

To date, there have been no school bus passenger or driver fatalities in Oregon and Washington, although there have been accidents.

The majority of students killed while commuting to and from school are those riding with teen drivers.