Why Is Louisiana One of the Only States with School Bus Seat Belt Laws?

Photo of elementary school kids climbing on to a school bus

Photo of elementary school kids climbing on to a school busOnly a few states in the United States – Louisiana, New York, California, Florida, New Jersey and Texas – have laws requiring seat belts on school buses. Why is that? Wouldn’t it make more sense for these vehicles, overwhelming used to keep kids safe on the way to and from school, to have one of the most important safety features available in passenger cars?

Well – not necessarily.

Texas’s new seat belt law took place at the beginning of this month, replacing one that took effect in 2007. Both laws were, in some form, responses to tragic bus accidents that killed students. This recent law was written in response to the wrongful deaths of Janecia Chatman and Mariya Johnson, students who died when a school bus went flying from an overpass. Neither girl was wearing a seat belt at the time – most seat belts, to date, do not have seat belts in Texas.

Is It Worth It to Install Seat Belts in School Buses?

Some opponents of school bus seat belts believe that mandating the lifesaving devices is too costly, for too little benefit. Statistics suggest they have a point. Whereas nearly 500 students die every year in car accidents during school travel hours, only around four students die in bus accidents. School buses are overwhelmingly the safest way to transport students to school. Granted, if a single life is saved, one could argue the cost was worth it. But it is not inconceivable to think that seat belts, in some circumstances, might lead to much worse outcomes.

For example, if a bus were to somehow end up in a body of water, the evacuation process could be slowed, leading to more deaths. If a bus were to start smoking or catch fire, students could be trapped inside by their seat belts. Even one accident like this could lead to loss of life that exceeds the current annual average.

What do you think? Should buses have seat belts?


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