SCHOOL BUSES AND SEATBELTS

In the less dense parts of the lower Hudson Valley, school children are dependent on school buses to get to school and return home. As a result of a high profile May, 2018 crash in New Jersey that left two dead, has led to new concerns on school bus safety in New York, especially with regard to seatbelts. On May 17, 2018, a dump truck hit a New Jersey school bus trying to make a U-turn flipping it from its chassis and killing a student and a teacher.

New York is one of the few states that mandates school buses to be outfitted with lap belts but, the law leaves it to individual school districts to make seatbelt use mandatory. The National Transportation Safety Board has pushed for seatbelts on school buses. The NTSB wants 3 point seatbelts on all school buses and require students to wear the seatbelts. Those who do not want seatbelts in school buses argue that school buses are different by design including a different kind of safety restraint system that works well according to NHTSA. Some school districts enforce seatbelt use of elementary school students and have monitors on board to enforce the rule.

Opinions on the use of seatbelts are split. The NHTSA says school buses are designed to be safe without seatbelts. They argue school buses are bigger and heavier than passenger vehicles and are able to handle the impact of crashes better than passenger vehicles plus, the design of school buses use the principle of compartmentalization which protects students in strong closely spaced seats that keep student in place and absorb impacts.

According to an article in The Journal News entitled “Are School Buses Safe without Seatbelts?” by Michael Coyne on August 8, 2018, the NTSB investigated school bus crashes in Maryland and Tennessee and found that lap and shoulder belts should be added to school buses. After the New Jersey crash, a New York Legislator Carlucci proposed a bill to mandate lap and shoulder belts be installed on all New York school buses and their use enforced. Mr. Carlucci stated “New York needs to take this guidance seriously and lawmakers must make the legislation top priority”. The bill would require any school buses purchased at July 1, 2019 would be required to have shoulder belts and older buses would have to be retrofitted with shoulder belts by April 1, 2019. The legislation never was passed in New York.

According to NHTSA, school buses are 70 times safer than other forms of transportation. New York uses more school buses than any other state in the U.S.A. Approximately 18000 according to New York Bus Distributors Association. There are 2 million students riding school buses across New York State. These children should be protected with lap and shoulder belts on school buses.

If your child has been injured in a school bus accident, call the law firm of Dominick J. Robustelli & Associates, PLLC at (914) 288-0800 or on the web at WhitePlains-Injury-Lawyer.com