After a head-on collision between a dump truck and a school bus injured 14 students in south Charlotte, some people question whether school buses that lack safety belts are safe.
Though both the driver of the dump truck and the school bus faced serious injuries, officials cite the lack of life-threatening injuries to the 14 students as evidence that school buses do a good job protecting passengers in a crash.
Do school buses need safety belts?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires buses that weigh less than 10,000 pounds to have three-point seatbelts. However, individual states decide whether buses larger than that must also have seatbelts. North Carolina does not require large buses to have these safety devices.
Lawmakers based this policy on a 2008 report that concluded that seatbelts do not increase safety enough to justify the $6.7 to $10.5 million annual price tag.
Could defective seats be to blame?
In addition to the seatbelt issue, the bus involved in the Charlotte crash contained seats that the manufacturer recalled in 2019 because of a safety defect that could increase the risk of injury during a crash. The NHTSA determined the bus was safe to operate while the seats waited for scheduled repairs. The organization also claims that students are 70 times more likely to suffer an injury in a car crash than while riding on a school bus.
None of the children received life-threatening injuries in the Charlotte crash. However, if parents can prove that the lack of seatbelts or the recalled seats contributed to their children’s injury, they may be able to recover damages.