School buses are the safest mode of transportation for school children, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They are highly visible — with flashing lights and stop arms that alert drivers to stop. They also include closely-spaced seats with absorbable, cushioned seatbacks.
Many states, including Kansas, don't require seatbelts on school buses, however. While the cushioned seatbacks may help mitigate the risk of sustaining an injury in a school bus crash, they won't protect students in a serious collision or rollover.
Several Wichita students injured in bus crash
A recent bus crash in Wichita left more than a dozen students with injuries, according to KWCH12.
The students were on their way to Topeka for a field trip. The bus driver reportedly lost control after sliding off the road and rolling into a ditch.
The bus reportedly didn't have any seat belts on it. Several community members berated the school district on social media as a result.
Chris Charlton, an employee of Collins Bus Corporation, says that "not all states require seat belts on buses." Collins Bus Corporation produces buses for school districts across the United States.
"Here at Collins Bus, we build all our busses custom by state spec and what the school district wants, so, for example, the state of Kansas doesn't mandate seatbelts, but what they will do is it's up to the school district themselves to whether they want seatbelts or not," said Charlton.
Seatbelts currently not required on school buses
According to the National Conference of State Legislators, seat belts are required on school buses in only eight states.
The Kansas State Department of Education says that it's not opposed to legislation that would mandate seat belts on school buses.
State lawmakers introduced legislation in 2017 that would require school districts to purchases buses with seatbelts when replacing older buses. The cost of adding seatbelts at the time was $10,000 per bus, however. Several school districts protested the bill due to the lack of funds. The bill failed to pass.
The National Transportation Safety Board previously recommended that states, "Enact legislation to require that all new large school buses be equipped with passenger lap/shoulder belts putting three-point seat belts on all new buses."
School districts should have seatbelts installed on school buses because they:
- Mitigate the risk of severe or fatal injuries
- Help keep students seated and reduce driver distraction
- Help keep students fastened during a rollover
If your child was injured in a school bus crash, the Kansas attorneys at Bretz & Young Injury Lawyers can help you recover all damages owed to you. Our legal team serves clients across the state of Kansas. Contact us online to set up your initial consultation free of charge.