YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The school bus that your child rides on has numerous safety features — two inches of foam in the seats, more than two feet of space between rows and a strong steel frame to protect the outside. It even has escape windows.
But the one thing that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) thinks is missing is a seat belt.
The law mandates passengers and drivers buckle up in a car, but the only requirement on school buses is for preschoolers and special needs students.
“Seat belts do save lives. On a school bus, the track record is not there. Most of the injuries occur on the outside of the bus on school buses,” said Craig Myers of Myers Equipment in Canfield.
Smaller buses — those used by head start and preschoolers — require the use of three-point seat belts. The NHTSA suggests that states require the same on large buses as well.
But adding a 3-point seat belt harness would add $10,000 to the cost of a school bus, which already costs about $80,000. Ohio has more than 11,000 school buses, which would make the total cost $110 million.
“I would much rather see some of these buses that are 18-20 years old be replaced with new buses that meet all the new criteria rather than taking all that money and putting it toward seat belts,” said Myers.
Only six states require seat belts on school buses right now: New York, New Jersey, Florida, Louisiana, Texas and California.
Myers said he could only recall one child being killed in the state of Ohio in the interior of a bus, and that occurred in 1962.
“Got a pretty good track record,” he said.
The NHTSA says it could take a decade for federal regulation, which is why it made the recommendation for states to act now.