Abingdon, Bristol and Johnson City
For many people, fastening their seatbelt is an automatic action when entering a vehicle. Not only is it a law to wear a seat belt when riding in a motor vehicle, but it also is the subject of the widespread “Click it or ticket” advertising campaign throughout the state of Tennessee. Curiously, though, one of the most popular means of transporting children to school—a school bus—lacks this basic safety function.
According to data compiled by the CDC, people who do not wear a seat belt are 30 times as likely to be ejected from a vehicle in the event of a crash.
Recent statistics released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTHSA) indicate that public school buses travel more than 4.3 million miles each year, carrying more than 24 million children and teenagers. Six children die per year in bus accidents. School buses, instead, operate on the safety concept of compartmentalization—with the seats placed closely together and all covered with foam that is 4 inches thick to provide additional protection.
But is this enough?
Even the death of a single child can be devastating to a family and community. In December of 2014, a school bus in Knoxville, Tennessee, flipped onto its side, resulting in the death of two students as well as a teacher’s aide. Least we forget about the unfortunate bus accident that occurred last year in Hamilton County, Tennessee that left six children dead and sent dozens more to the hospital to be treated for injuries.
Due to tragedies such as these, the Tennessee state legislature has been evaluating the prospect of legally requiring each county and school system to install seat belts on its school buses. The proposed legislation would require seat belts to be installed statewide by 2023. The cost would be significant—some estimates by designers claim that retrofitting current school buses with seat belts would cost $12,000-$15,000 per vehicle. However, considering some of the risks to children in school buses, the extra protection from seat belts is warranted.
For example, if a school bus is T-boned—hit from the side—then any child not seated will get sent flying or possibly ejected. This is because children often stand up or kneel while riding on school buses. Seat belts would prevent this from occurring.
A rollover represents the worst-case scenario for any vehicle, but especially a school bus filled with children who are not held in place by seat belts.
Legally, school buses and buses used in public transportation represent two different issues. Adults who use public transportation are choosing to ride a city bus that lacks seat belts. Adults not only are aware of their choice, but they also have the size and strength to protect themselves better in the event of an accident. Many children who ride school buses, by contrast, are doing so because they have no other option to make it to school on a daily basis.
Did you know that, currently, only six states in the U.S. require seat belts on school buses by law? These states are California, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, New York and New Jersey. We believe that, eventually, other states will follow suit—just like Tennessee’s legislature currently is considering.
Meanwhile, if one of your loved ones is injured in a school bus accident, you need to have a lawyer on your side who will fight for you and your family. If this has happened to a member of your family, call the Law Offices of Michael R. Munsey, P.C. as soon as possible. Call us at (276) 451-2056 to schedule a free consultation.
The Law Offices of Michael R. Munsey, P.C., serves clients in Bristol, Kingsport and Johnson City, TN, as well as Bristol, VA.