M. Alex Johnson – Journalist at Large

An analog journalist in a digital world

Why your child’s school bus has no seat belts

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NHTSA Crash Test Video

Video: Federal crash test video may look violent, but safety officials say much of the impact is absorbed by the foam padding on the seat in front. A lap or shoulder belt could cause significant neck and abdominal injuries.

If cars have seat belts, why aren’t they generally required in school buses? Because modern school buses are already remarkably safe, and because seat belts don’t work the same way in buses as they do cars, research shows.

Designers of modern school buses don’t trust squirmy children to use seat belts properly. Instead, they use a passive system called compartmentalization. Bus seats aren’t packed so closely together just to maximize capacity (although that’s one reason); they’re spaced tightly and covered with 4-inch-thick foam to form a protective bubble.

About 440,000 public school buses carry 24 million children more than 4.3 billion miles a year, but only about six children die each year in bus accidents, according to annual statistics compiled the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. About 800 children, by contrast, die every year walking, biking or being driven to school in cars or other passenger vehicles.

Full story (Alex Johnson/msnbc.com)

Written by Alex

December 29, 2010 at 7:00 am

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