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Why are seat belts not required on school buses?

Drivers and passengers in cars are required to wear seat belts or in the case of children under a certain age or weight, to be in a child safety seat. However, children who ride in school buses have no such protection. Interestingly, the people who should be putting children's safety at the forefront of their concerns don't seem to favor the use of seat belts in school buses. Bus drivers have expressed strong opposition to them.

So why do bus drivers not want the young people for whom they're responsible to be buckled in? Several reasons have been given:

-- The buckles can be used as weapons.

-- In an emergency, children may become trapped.

-- There is no way to ensure that children are properly fastening their seat belts.

Interestingly, the National Highway Transportation Administration has sided with the bus drivers. NHTSA issued a statement saying, "School bus transportation is one of the safest forms of transportation in the United States." The federal safety agency contends that children are protected by "strong, closely-spaced seats that have energy-absorbing seat backs."

School bus drivers have asked for more support on school buses, such as the addition of bus aides, to help maintain discipline. They have complained that it is too challenging to keep their eyes on the road and their backs to the students if they misbehave.

Just this month, a school bus driver was seen on video locking some 40 elementary school children on the bus and refusing to let them get off to meet their parents at the bus stop after they apparently became rowdy. Despite the children's and parents' pleas to let them off the bus, he is heard saying, "Your kid will get off the bus when I am done with 'em." He then drove them back to their school as frantic parents called 911, not knowing what he had in mind. The bus driver has since resigned.

Most children make it to and from school every day safely. However, if a child is injured in a school bus accident, parents can and should seek legal guidance to determine what their options are.

Source: National Education Association, "Seat Belts, School Buses and Safety," accessed May. 06, 2015

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