Safety

Seat belt or hospital bed

Frank Di Giacomo
Posted on January 19, 2010

I’ve dedicated this column on more than one occasion to making a case for lap-shoulder belts on school buses, and I’ve heard back from readers who have strong opinions on both sides of the fence.

Whether school buses should have seat belts for passengers is certainly a contentious issue, and it has been for decades. But I’ve never heard anyone argue that school bus drivers don’t need seat belts.

It seems like a no-brainer: A school bus driver needs to be buckled in so he doesn’t get thrown out of his seat. But there are some drivers out there who seem to be ignoring that clear message.

From time to time, we’ll come across a media report of a school bus crash in which the driver was unbelted and thus ejected from the vehicle. Then there’s the recently released National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report on the fatal Huntsville, Ala., school bus crash.

The report confirmed that the bus driver was not wearing his seat belt, although it didn’t indicate whether the accident could have been prevented if he had been wearing it. We checked in with several pupil transportation officials, and they had some strong words on the matter.

Reminders and penalties

Charlie Hood, president of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services and the state director in Florida, said that “the few school bus operators who don’t wear their belts, or don’t wear them properly, must be reminded that in a school bus environment in particular, the safety belt not only helps prevent crash injuries, it helps prevent crashes in the first place by keeping drivers in their seats and in control of the bus.”

Hood noted that after a crash, the driver’s condition is critical to his or her ability to help with evacuations and injured students.

Alabama state pupil transportation director Joe Lightsey said that the Huntsville crash points out “the continuing need for close monitoring of drivers to ensure that their seat belts are buckled, and that severe penalties should be imposed on those who fail to comply.”

Lightsey said that since 2008, all new school buses in Alabama have been required to have audible and visual warnings for drivers if their seat belts are not buckled.

Mike Martin, executive director of the National Association for Pupil Transportation, also pointed to the seat belt component of the NTSB report.

“Safety belt use by school bus drivers is critical to maintaining control of the bus under all operating conditions,” Martin said.

Excuses, excuses

The Kansas Department of Transportation has a great resource on its Website called “Reasons Why I Do Not Wear My Safety Belt” (go to www.ksdot.org and do a search for that title), which lists common excuses and then dismantles them.

Perhaps one of the most effective replies is to the complaint that seat belts are uncomfortable: “Safety belts are a lot more comfortable than a hospital bed.”

Related Topics: seat belts

Comments ( 1 )
  • Eric Kissel

     | about 10 years ago

    After reading the report on the Huntsville accident it appeared that the lack of a seat belt may have saved the driver's life. Before anyone starts in on me, I would say that I don't know that the driver's exit from the seat kept him from avoiding the bus from going over the Jersey barrier. I think it is fair to say that we can't protect the passengers from every possible scenario. This was an extreme set of circumstances and not one that will be repeated many times over. I understand that once is too many, but in the event that fire is added to the mix seat belts "could" account for additional time in passengers evacuating the bus.

More Stories
Video

School Bus Songs: ‘Obey the Driver’

High school students from Harford County (Md.) Public Schools recreate Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” to encourage their peers to keep safety first and follow the bus driver's rules.

Christopher Frachiseur, 19, failed to stop for the stopped school bus, jumped the curb, and traveled to the right passenger side of the bus, hitting a man and two students from the same family. Photo courtesy Forsyth County Sheriff's Office
News

Car Strikes Man, 2 Girls Trying to Board School Bus

Nineteen-year-old Christopher Frachiseur of Georgia fails to stop for the school bus, jumps the curb, and drives onto the sidewalk past the right passenger side of the school bus, hitting a man and two students from the same family.

The NCST’s Steering Committee and writing committees are preparing for the 2020 Congress. Murrell Martin (shown left) and Bill Loshbough are shown here leading a discussion at NCST 2015.
News

NCST Gears Up for 2020

The National Congress on School Transportation Steering Committee firms up plans and writing committees are researching requests for procedures manual changes. The Congress will meet in Des Moines, Iowa, in May.

NAPT President Barry Sudduth presented Peter Mannella (right), longtime NAPT member and former executive director of the New York Association for Pupil Transportation, with the association's Distinguished Service Award. 
News

NAPT Awards Highlight Top-Notch Service, Achievement

Student transportation professionals are recognized for their remarkable dedication and service to the school bus industry. Awards are also presented to Zonar’s 2019 Don Carnahan Memorial grant recipients.

Be the First to Know

Get the latest news and most popular articles from SBF delivered straight to your inbox. Stay on top of the school bus industry and don't miss a thing!