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Safety Agency Changes Position On School Bus Seat Belts

Wearing a seat belt is one of the best things you can do to improve your chances of surviving a car accident. Seat belts save lives. That has been proven time and again in studies going back decades. So why is it that children riding school buses are often exempt from seat belt requirements? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has long held the stance that large school buses should not be required to have seat belts. New Jersey is one of six states that ignored the NHTSA position and made seat belts on school buses mandatory. The NHTSA has now altered its position and will push to make sure that children on all types of school bus have a three-point seat belt to keep them secure.

It is true that the occupants of larger vehicles fare better in the event of a collision. The size of a large school bus offers some protection for the children inside. There is no reason, however, to offset that advantage by leaving the children in a vulnerable, unbuckled state. Moreover, the fact that children do not have to wear seat belts on many school buses may contribute to a reluctance to wear them in other situations. Wearing a seat belt should be a habit. Requiring a seat belt every time, in every situation can only help encourage children to adopt the practice later in life. 

The NHTSA is looking into methods to put its new position into action. They are assessing their resources and seeking the best strategies to get seat belts into buses that are not currently equipped. The NHTSA Administrator, Mark Rosekind, encouraged school bus manufacturers to start including seat belts in new buses, even in the absence of a legal mandate to do so. He did clarify that the new position is not yet at the rulemaking stage. For now, school bus manufacturers have the option to make and sell buses without three-point seat belts.

Source: KHON 2, "NHTSA: Three-point seat belts on school buses would save lives," 9 November 2015 

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