The National Coalition for School Bus Safety
Contact: Arthur L. Yeager, DMD
SEAT BELTS STILL MISSING FROM SCHOOL BUSES
Edison, NJ, July 9.. Although by law children in all states are currently required to use seat belts or child safety seats when they ride in the family car, every school day 23 million youngsters travel back and forth to school without this basic crash protection because large, yellow school buses are not equipped with seat belts.
This just does not make sense, said Dr. Arthur Yeager, Vice-President and co founder of the National Coalition for School Bus Safety in a statement prepared for delivery at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) public meeting to discuss ordering installation of seat belts on newly manufactured school buses. (July 11, 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel)
Beginning with the first trip home from the hospital, kids learn and have become comfortable riding properly restrained, Yeager continued,that is until they start Kindergarten and for most kids take their very first ride unprotected on their school bus and in so doing effectively unlearn the critical, lifetime habit of seat belt use.
Child passengers need seat belts on school buses for the very same three reasons that their use is required in cars:
-To reduce fatalities and mitigate injuries in crashes,
-To reinforce the practice of restraint use, and
-To improve discipline on the bus.
- Dr. Yeager went on to accuse local and state officials, industry leaders and Federal officials of being responsible for a â€œwell orchestrated series of Myths and Distortions over the past 35 years in opposition to safety belts on their school buses. He gave the following examples:
Myth 1. School busing is the safest form of travel.
NHTSA alleges only 6 child fatalities in a year but does not count in those killed by the school bus, including children getting on and off the bus and occupants of other vehicles. According to the Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS) the true number of school bus related fatalities annually is 141 representing an almost 25 fold increase and a far cry from the 6 NHTSA reports.
Myth 2. Compartmentalization
NHTSA asserts that school buses do not need seat belts because kids are snugly nested between high-back, fully padded seats that effectively contain them during crashes. But back in 1999 the highly respected National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that in side impact and roll over accidents compartmentalization is incomplete and gives no protection to passengers. NHTSA admits that 50% of bus passenger fatalities occur during these side impacts and rollovers.
Myth 3. Misconstrued testing.
In testing before and since initiation of school bus seating standards, NHTSA has steadfastly refused to test the efficacy of seat belts in side and rollover crashes. Tests comparing belted and belt-less instrumented dummies have always been of front end crashes where the seat system works comparatively well. NHTSA has not properly tested side impacts and rollovers where the current seating system fails.
Myth 4. Potential loss of seating.
NHTSA worries that with implementation of seat belts seating capacity would be lost.If three kids cannot fit on a seat with seat belts then they cannot fit on the same seat without belts.
Myth 5. Potential for belt misuse.
For decades NHTSA has advocated seat belt use in cars and light trucks and actively promoted their use without such dire warnings.
Dr. Yeager concluded his presentation declaring that children who ride school buses are endangered in school bus accidents because compartmentalization is incomplete and seat belts are needed to keep them in the compartment, that seat belt implementation has been stalled by those in charge and action is needed now.
Dr. Yeager has spearheaded the enactment of two first in the nation state laws, one to require use of seat belts on school buses and another to require use of bicycle helmets. In addition Yeager has been instrumental in passing legislation raising the drinking age to 21, requiring school buses to have high back padded seats, roof hatches and crossing gates, child restraint laws, moped helmet use and providing for ice cream truck stop signs.