Most parents go all out to make sure that their children are safe and secure in their own cars, but what about when they are on the big, yellow school bus? Understandably, a lot of people don't feel comfortable having their children ride on a bus with no seat belts or other safety features. A lot of individuals would rather take time out of their schedules to transport their children to the school directly. So just how safe are school buses?
Just because a school bus is loaded with children does not mean it is immune to traffic accidents. In fact, just last year, over 17,000 children were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries stemming from school bus accidents. In 2006, the Center for Innovation in Pediatric Practice stated that over 40% of accidents are caused by other vehicles striking the bus with the remainder coming from children simply getting in and out. However, most fatal accidents involving school buses aren’t the vehicles being struck but children getting hit within the "danger zone." This region comprises the areas that are 10 feet from the front, back and side of the bus. Although this is not the fault of the bus itself, many new models are coming out with innovations like extension arms that keep children away from these areas.
But There Aren't Seat Belts
One of the most common arguments for improving the safety of a school bus is to add seat belts. The vast majority of states don't require seat belts on school buses. So if normal cars are required by law to have seat belts, why not a school bus filled with children? Essentially, it comes down to the cost/benefit analysis. This means that the benefits of adding seat belts doesn't increase the safety of the bus but instead diminishes it as it becomes harder to evacuate children in the event of a fire or crash.
Other reasons include not being able to enforce it as one driver cannot make sure that 30-plus children are all wearing them constantly. Lastly, most school bus interiors are designed with compartmentalization in mind. This means seats are closely packed together and made out of energy-absorbent material to lessen the impact.
If someone really wants to understand how to improve school bus safety, they should stray from the usual talking points. A voice that goes largely unheard in this debate is that of the driver. Unlike teachers, drivers must take care of over 30 to 50 kids at a time with no additional help. Drivers have offered some of the best preventive measures, such as the addition of teacher aids to every bus to be disciplinarians and make sure that children are walking safely out of the bus.
The debate over whether school buses are safe and how they can be improved will continue for the foreseeable future, as it should. However, it first is necessary to form an understanding of the statistics and current research behind common suggestions. A school but may not ever be entirely safe, but it is clear that schools and state governments are working diligently to come as close to it as possible.
Getting back into the routine of school isn’t always easy, so use these tips to make it less painless.
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