The Garden City Telegram
8/1/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Safer rides

Seat belts, interior padding boost safety on school buses.

Safety-minded measures are getting into full swing as another school year approaches.

At Garden City USD 457, the transportation department has a high focus on school bus safety, with Kansas Highway Patrol officers set to inspect buses Monday.

All school buses must pass inspection before being used to transport students.

For good reason. Last year alone, USD 457 reportedly provided transportation for more than 3,700 students. It's easy to see how this district and others make safe travel a high priority.

What's not so easy to comprehend — especially when serious bus crashes happen — is why many states haven't done more to make school buses safer.

Just a handful of states require seat belts on school buses, and Kansas isn't among them.

So, in a nation where good initiatives are in place to encourage people of all ages to buckle up, only the driver — not passengers — must wear a seat belt on many school buses.

Those who oppose installing seat belts on school buses argue they can cause neck and abdominal injuries in a collision, and make it more difficult to escape a burning bus in an accident. Some even cite the cost, which should never block a potentially life-saving change.

The potential for seat belts to save lives cannot be dismissed.

In a crash, a seat belt can keep an occupant from being thrown about the bus and possibly ejected. Seat belts also keep occupants in their seats during sharp turns or quick stops. Keeping students in their seats also curbs distracting behavior that can lead to a crash.

Along with calling for seat belts on school buses, the National Transportation Safety Board also advocates padded interiors to better protect the sides of the vehicles. Fatal crashes in Kansas have involved school buses being hit broadside by semitrailers.

Incorporating seat belts, making sure students use them and adding protection to school bus interiors all warrant serious consideration.

While we may never be able to guarantee youngsters won't be injured or worse should a crash occur, policymakers have an obligation to consider every possible way to enhance school bus safety.