Should school buses have seat belts? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Should school buses have seat belts?

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By  Stephanie Springer  - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - School buses carry our most precious cargo, yet they don't have seat belts. Several softball players were banged up and cut Tuesday night when a Tift County school bus was broad sided. Would they have been better protected had they been buckled up?

Kids can get tossed around quite a bit when a school bus crashes. But Rontrel Frazier recalls even the calmest bus rides being bumpy. "We used to hit the speed bumps and everybody would just go in the air one time," said Frazier. 

And when a bus crashes happen, like the Tuesday night where a bus was broad sided in Tifton, kids get thrown around.

"We had some minor bruises and cuts we had a window that broke," said Taylor Wilkins, Tift County head softball coach.

This accident brings up the age old debate; should school buses have seat belts?

"School buses should have seat belts," said Frazier.

But not everyone agrees.

"School buses are built a lot like a race car and there is a roll bar built all along the body the bottom sheet metal can get bent in but where the passenger compartment is its all intact," said Scott Tucker, Tift Co. Transportation Director. 

School buses aren't required to have seat belts. One reason is a passive restraint system called compartmentalization.

"There cushioned front and rear and if you are sitting in that seat and if your sitting in that seat its about as safe as it can be," said Tucker.

And he says the possible dangers created by seat belts could outweigh the benefits.

"I'm sure in some instances a seat belt could be a benefit, but I'm sure in other circumstances it could be a liability too,"said Tucker.

Seat belts are cited as a danger in crashes where students could become trapped. But the National Coalition for School Bus Safety says seat belts don't lessen evacuation times.

The School Bus Transportation News website says, though, that because school buses weigh so much, passengers are safer than in smaller vehicles. And kids aren't as easily thrown out because they don't sit near doors or large windows.

In Dougherty county currently only pre-k buses in are required to have seat belts.

The National Coalition for School Bus safety says it would cost about 1,100 dollars to equip a 65 passenger school bus with seat belts.

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