All buses in New York are required to have seatbelts by State Law but it is up to the individual school district to decide whether to enforce their use. On May 17, 2018, a horrific crash in New Jersey when a school bus crashed into a dump truck in which a student and teacher died has parents worried about putting children onto buses. The Federal Government claims school buses are 70 times safer than a passenger car. School officials, experts and industry figures say school buses are designed to protect students in the event of a crash even without seatbelts. Even without seatbelts, he Assistant Director of Transportation at The Rockland County Board of Cooperative Educational Services claims “there are actually a lot of things that make the role of a school bus drivers much safer than a parent”.
According to an article in The Journal News entitled “Buckle up: Is it the law?” by Kimberly Redmond and Matt Coyne on May 19, 2018, school buses are safer because of their size and weight. The distinctive yellow color, the extra lights and retractable stop sign, the interior of a school bus is designed with safety in mind. The Assistant Director in Rockland County, Joann Thompson states “the design – the compartmentalization which is the higher backed seat in front and behind helps student from getting significantly hurt if we were involved in a crash”. “It gives an added level of safety that supersedes a parent transporting their kid in their own car”.
Elmsford students from kindergarten to sixth grade have to use seatbelts and the district has monitors on buses to make sure. Briarcliff Manor requires seatbelts for elementary school students on field trips. White Plains encourages the use of seatbelts at transportation orientation for parent and students every year but does not mandate it. In the New Jersey school bus accident on May 17, 2018, students were reportedly wear seatbelts and when the crash happened, students were screaming and hanging from their seatbelts as the bus went on its side and escaped through windows and emergency exits. Al Roney from New York School Bus Contractors Associates states seatbelts can help in situations like crashes but when a young student has to evacuate, the seatbelts can slow things down. He states “we’re all about student safety first. If there is a mandate that all students have to wear a seatbelt, too, we’re going to go with that and whatever the state decides”.