NEW YORK — Last week’s issue of Parade magazine included an article with a provocative title: “Are School Buses Unsafe?”
That headline, as well as the contents of the brief article in the widely distributed publication, prompted a critique from school transportation officials saying that it “may mislead parents.”
The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) wrote a letter to Parade citing numerous concerns. For one, the association said, the Parade piece fails to distinguish between lap belts and lap-shoulder belts.
The article says that installing “seat belts” in a new school bus “would cost just $1,500.” But that figure only applies to lap belts, NASDPTS noted.
The Minnesota Association for Pupil Transportation recently estimated that the cost of a proposed lap-shoulder belt mandate in the state would be $8,000 to $9,000 per large school bus.
“There are significant differences in cost and potential benefits between a two-point lap belt and a three-point lap/shoulder belt, yet your readers did not know which system the writer was discussing,” NASDPTS President Charlie Hood wrote.
Another problem with the Parade article, NASDPTS said, is that has “no comments or information from the federal agencies that have studied school bus safety or the national organizations that are most familiar with student transportation.”
The article acknowledges that “data show that school buses are extremely safe compared to cars.” Still, NASDPTS said that the headline and other elements “may mislead parents into believing school buses are unsafe, when the exact opposite is true. All credible national studies of school bus safety have concluded that school buses, with or without seat belts, are a far safer way for children to get to and from school than any other means.”
The NASDPTS letter describes the safety record and other benefits of school buses and asks Parade Executive Editor Lamar Graham to consider publishing a follow-up article with those facts.
According to Parade’s Website, the magazine is distributed by more than 510 Sunday newspapers and reaches 74 million readers. The publication’s mission includes the statement, “Each article must be clear in design and content and well researched and written with a voice of authority.”