When I was in elementary school, my aunt would often pick me and my siblings up at the end of the day.
Along with our occasional trips to Carl’s Jr. for an after-school treat, something that stands out in my memory about those days is that we kids would often have to remind our aunt to put on her seat belt before she began driving.
Whether she just tended to forget to buckle up or she tried to avoid it because the belt was uncomfortable, I’m not sure. But in retrospect, those seat belt situations seem to illustrate a difference between generations.
My siblings and I were raised with the importance of seat belt use so ingrained in us that not buckling up in a car was unthinkable. On the other hand, my aunt grew up riding in cars that didn’t even have seat belts.
I never questioned my aunt’s concern for safety. In fact, she was just as protective of me and my siblings as our parents were, and she is one of the most selfless and caring people I know. But I’m glad we were there to make sure she wore her seat belt.
So here’s the pertinent question: Do some school bus drivers need their passengers (or someone else) to remind them to buckle up?
One of the more startling news stories I find on occasion is that of an unbelted school bus driver who fell out of his or her seat. In some cases, the ejection occurs after the bus becomes involved in a crash, but sometimes the crash is a result of the driver falling out of the seat, maybe while turning or hitting a bump.
In June 2011, a school bus driver in Holt, Mich., crashed her bus into a garage. Police said that the driver was not belted and had fallen from her seat into the entrance well of the bus while making a left turn. There were no kids on the bus, and the driver only suffered minor injuries, but she was ticketed and then elected to retire from her position.
More recently, in December of last year, a 67-year-old school bus driver in Natchitoches Parish, La., was killed when she lost control of her bus, exited the highway and struck trees and a fence before traveling down an embankment. Although police said it was suspected that a medical condition was the primary cause of the crash, they pointed out that the driver was not wearing her seat belt.
Also last year, after an unbelted school bus driver in Carmel, Ind., was bounced out of his seat and crashed, a news team from WISH-TV shot footage in four school districts and found multiple bus drivers either wearing their seat belts improperly or not wearing them at all.
These incidents should serve as cautionary tales to any school bus drivers who haven’t made it a priority to properly wear their seat belts.
The incidents also show the need for managers to regularly monitor their drivers’ seat belt use — and to enforce penalties for not complying.
Don’t leave it to the kids to make sure their drivers are buckling up.