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NTSB recommends seatbelts for all new school buses

A federal transportation panel on Tuesday recommended to states that all new large school buses be equipped with both lap and shoulder seatbelts.

The National Transportation Safety Board also recommended requiring collision-avoidance systems and automatic emergency brakes on new school buses.

In 2017, the Utah legislature took up the issue of seatbelts with HB 132. But the bill did not pass the house. The bill’s senate sponsor, Todd Weiler, talked to Utah’s Morning News about it.

“I think we will see the safety of school buses improve,” he said.

Weiler said it would have cost $10-15,000 for each bus to install seatbelts, and lawmakers thought that money could be spent elsewhere. Weiler says it is up to local school districts to decide.

“I have a 15 year old daughter, and I asked her this morning, ‘have you ridden on buses with seatbelts?’ ‘yes,’ she said. ‘Have you worn them?’ She said no, and said no one wears them. She’s a teenager, but I think if we go to this expense, the question is will the kids bother to wear them,” said Weiler.

“I do think they are a common sense solution. if younger kids grow up wearing them, they will wear them as teenagers,” he said.

The Utah Department of Public Safety and others all point out the safety mechanisms already in place. it’s called “compartmentalization” – the way the seats are built, high backs and closely spaced and energy-absorbing seat backs, the kids are cushioned from impact, kind of like eggs in an egg carton.

Large school buses are heavier and distribute crash forces differently than passenger vehicles as well. Small school buses are closer to passenger cars and trucks, seat belts in those vehicles are necessary to provide occupant protection. Both types are highly regulated and inspected often.

Experts say school buses are the safest mode of transportation for getting children to and from school. Students are about 70 times more likely to get to school safely when taking a bus instead of traveling by car.