Friday, August 6, 2010

Update on Missouri Bus Crash - would seatbelts have helped

According to news reports today, the young lady that was killed in the bus crash was sitting in the last seat on the right side of the bus with the girls, which was the bus that struck the pickup truck and then moved up onto the cab of the tractor-trailer truck (no trailer, just tractor cab).  The other bus, on which sat the boys, rammed into the rear of the bus with the girls. State Troopers in Missouri state that the young girl that died would have been a fatality even if she had been wearing a seatbelt. Apparently, the last three rows of seats were pushed forward at least three rows. The statement by the Trooper is that a seatbelt would not have helped in this case.

My question is, what about all the kids that were thrown around and injured? Obviously, seat belts would have helped them. I can't speak about the girls in the last three rows of the front bus, but all the other children probably could  have been helped.

The National Traffic Safety Board states that about 1700 kids are in bus accidents every day throughout the U.S. However, hospital records of children being seen in emergency rooms as a result of school bus accidents indicates the number of children seen is higher.  In my opinion, there is no doubt that kids who are not wearing belts are thrown forward, upward, and/or to the side when the bus in which they are riding is in an accident. However, the NTSB believes differently. They state that buses are safe due to "compartmentalization." On their website, they say "An average of only 7 passengers are fatally injured each year as school buses carry over 23.5 million children daily."

ONLY 7 PASSENGERS? These are someone's kids. These are the students of teachers who, hopefully, care. These are kids with friends. How dare they think that it doesn't matter since ONLY 7 fatalities of kids on school buses occur. The cost per bus is $7000 to $11,000 to provide seat belts. Each bus carries about 50 kids. The cost for belts is a one time purchase over the life of the bus. If the bus is used for 10 years, the cost per year is $700 to $1,100. Divide that by 50 children riding the bus ONE TIME  That is about $14 to $22 added for each child who rides that bus that ONE TIME. Would a parent pay that to keep his/her child safe? But, children don't typically ride ONE TIME. Those buses are used every school day plus for after and before school activities. As the NTSB states, school buses carry over 23.5 million children DAILY.

In my opinion, mathematically, when looking at the life of the bus over time, the cost is minimal to provide belts. Also, many school buses are used for more than 10 years. They get sold to churches or other non-profits and some districts have to keep them for many years.

As with everything in life, it is wise to look NOT just at the up-front cost of something, but to spread that cost over time. If we are looking at a higher quality product, what are we paying each year for that extra quality? At least this is the way I consider every purchase. How much more should we be considering the purchase of seatbelts on school buses.

Only a few states require seat belts. Missouri is not one of those states, although it may be that the parents of those injured children begin to lobby for seatbelts on buses. A Massachusetts legislator is lobbying for a change in the law there.

A company that manufactures seat belts for buses has animations of what happens to children when an accident occurs. Children restrained by seat belts stay in their seat. Those without belts are thrown around and at risk of severe injury. Even with these animations, people fight the expense of putting belts on buses.

It is 2010. I began lobbying on this issue in the early 1970s. In all that time, there has been little progress, although Texas did pass the law and I'm very grateful for that and believe every moment I spent contacting state legislators was worth the effort. I just have a hard time believing that, in all the other states without seat belt on school bus laws, the cost of belts is too high. Taxpayer money pays for these buses and many taxpayers have children riding those buses. Why isn't every parent lobbying on this issue? People just don't know how much power they have, if wiling to be persistent. I guess it is more important to spend time on Facebook or to watch one's favorite TV show than to consider the risk our children may endure daily.

PLEASE get on board regarding this issue. You may save a child's life and never know it! You may save a child from severe injury and never know it. However, God knows what we do and watches our works.

Blessings to all! I do hope readers make the effort to lobby the U.S. Congress about passing a law requiring seat belts on school buses in every state of our Union.

No comments: