For years, SafeGuard has heard excuse after excuse against using lap-shoulder belts on school buses, but there is one in particular we hear from parents. They fear a scenario where seat belts could slow or prevent their child from evacuating in a serious accident. The reality is that without seat belts on your child’s school bus, children might not be able to evacuate at all.
When a school bus rolls over and children aren’t belted in, they are far more likely to suffer serious injuries or to be knocked unconscious, making evacuation more difficult if not impossible without the help of others. The video below show what happens to unbelted children in a rollover. They are tossed about, slamming into everything from the ceiling to other children, dramatically increasing their risk of injury. The children who are belted in remain safely and securely in their seats.
The seat belts SafeGuard puts on school buses are no different than the ones in your car. Children learn from an early age how to buckle and unbuckle their seat belts, and in the event of an accident on the school bus, it takes a child a second or less to push the button and release himself. By Federal Safety Standards, the force required to push the release button is the same as what your child experiences in your vehicle, even when the belt is under a load such as that caused by the weight of a passenger in a rollover.
What can slow down evacuations is the limit of one person at a time through the rear emergency exit and/or the front door. The use of the side exit windows and roof hatches are an extreme rarity in evacuations, and are even much slower. Lap-shoulder belts help speed up the evacuation process. It is far easier for a conscious, uninjured child to escape.
Just like drills inside the school building, the same kind of emergency preparation should be conducted for students who ride the bus, so children know what to do and where to go in the event of an accident. Being prepared, whether they have seat belts or not, helps keep them calmer and also helps them to evacuate more quickly.
Lap-shoulder belts also help protect your children in other types of crashes as well as sudden stops. When children aren’t wearing lap-shoulder belts on the school bus, a sudden stop propels them into the seat in front of them, often causing minor injuries. When they’re belted in, this doesn’t happen.
It’s time to move past the misinformation that’s been circulating for decades about lap-shoulder belts on school buses. The fact is there is absolutely no proof that seat belts slow the evacuation process. What has been proven is that seat belts can save lives.