It’s probably the most common excuse we hear from people about putting seat belts on school buses: Seat belts will slow down evacuations.
Imagine a bus full of children overturning. Without seat belts, they won’t stay in their seats. They’ll be tossed around the inside of the bus like clothes in a dryer. Depending on how much the bus rolls, they could hit the roof, the floor, the walls, and especially other children. When the crash is over and the bus comes to a stop, many of those kids might not be able to evacuate at all. They could be seriously injured or unconscious.
Watch this video from a bus rollover in Ohio several years ago. See how long it takes for those kids to stand up and begin to evacuate. Their bus only rolled onto its side.
Now watch what happens in a similar, simulated rollover. Notice what happens to the test dummies.
Now ask yourself, which scenario better protects kids? And more importantly, in which scenario would children be more likely to evacuate the bus on their own?
For parents who imagine a nightmare scenario where fire breaks out on the bus and the kids are trapped in their seat belts, rest easy. SafeGuard® lap-shoulder belts are just like the ones in your car. You’ve taught your children from an early age how to buckle and unbuckle their seat belts. In the event of an accident on their school bus, they would evacuate at the click of a button, even if they are hanging upside down.
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 can 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 children who ride the bus, so they 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.
The myth that seat belts will slow evacuations is like a lot of misinformation out there. Once you learn the facts, you’ll see there are No More Excuses for keeping seat belts off your child’s school bus.