The Hartford Courant in Connecticut reports that 16-year-old Vikas Parikh, an honor student at Rocky Hill High School, was killed in a school bus wreck Saturday morning. A small group of students were traveling to a robotics competition when the school bus collided with a station wagon. The school bus ran through guard rail and went down an embankment. Several students and a teacher were injured.
This accident raises a familiar, long-debated question: Should school buses be required to have seat belts? Many people think that a seat belt might have saved Parikh’s life.
Over the years, the design of school buses has changed to improve safety. For example, a second emergency exit was added after a 1989 school bus crash in which a bus filled with water in a ditch and students couldn’t escape. School bus designs have seen improved seat padding, better crash protection for fuel tanks, better brakes, enhanced body strength, and improved mirrors.
Research shows that school buses are safer than cars. A Transportation Research Board study concluded that only about 2 percent of the approximately 800 school children killed in school travel times each year are passengers on school buses.
However, the recent, tragic school bus wreck stresses the fact that school bus safety could be improved with the addition of seat belts. Padded seats may protect children in head-on crashes, but they cannot protect students from the kind of forces generated by rollovers or other types of accidents. When children get tossed around inside the bus, injuries and fatalities will inevitably occur. Seat belts would likely reduce injuries and fatalities.
Some people argue that seat belts might injure children or make it hard to get off the bus during an emergency. Most kids know how to get out of a seat belt. In my opinion, they would do much more good than harm. Seat belts might also keep the kids in place and cut down on driver distraction.
In the recent wreck, there is no word on what caused the accident. Some speculate that an improper lane change was behind the wreck, but the facts have not come out yet.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that it would cost up to $252 million to add three-point seat belts to school buses. And that’s probably why school buses don’t have seat belts. But, given the importance of this issue – the safety of our children – it seems like lawmakers could find the money somehow.
Six states (including California, New York, and New Jersey) now require seat belt use on school buses, even though there is no federal law. Several more states, including Connecticut, will soon be considering regulation to require seat belts on school buses. I think it’s about time for Georgia to follow suit.
If you know someone who has been injured in a bus wreck, contact an experienced Georgia bus wreck lawyer as soon as possible. Call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule your free consultation.