Like Eggs in a Carton’: Why Most School Buses Don’t Have Seat Belts
“Students are protected within the seating compartment much like eggs in a carton"
A video of an Ohio school bus flipping over and sending kids flying from their seats into the roof is making some people wonder whether seat belts should be mandated on all school buses.
But while such accidents send chills down the spine of parents, national safety data suggests that school buses remain the safest mode of transportation for children, even without seat belts.
A big reason for that is that large school buses are designed to withstand impact through compartmentalization. This design concept provides a “protective envelope” around students by placing strong, high energy-absorbing, padded seats close together, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Put another way, “Students are protected within the seating compartment much like eggs in a carton,” according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
Anyone who watched the Ohio crash will also notice that, while the kids hit the roof, the roof didn’t break. That’s because school buses also have minimum roof crush requirements, according to the NHTSA.
And, because school buses are so big and heavy, the impact from a crash is distributed differently than it would be in a car, light truck or van, meaning that people in a school bus “experience much less crash force,” according to the NHTSA.
The exception is buses weighing less than 10,000 pounds, like those used to transport special education students. Because they are closer in size to regular cars and trucks, the NHTSA does require seat belts in small buses to “provide occupant protection.”
Still, only four to six school-age children die each year on school buses, less than one percent of all traffic fatalities nationwide, according to the NHTSA. This means kids are about 70 times more likely to get to school safely on a school bus than they would if traveling in a car.