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SEATBELTS ON SCHOOL BUSES — IT IS LONG OVERDUE

Isn’t it time that Pennsylvania becomes one of the states that requires  seatbelts in all school buses?  Surprisingly, Federal law only requires seatbelts in school buses that weigh less than 10,000 pounds. Historically, regulators have opposed seatbelt mandates on larger school buses.  As of 2017, approximately 18 states were considering mandating seatbelts on school buses. Six (6) states (New York, California, Florida, New Jersey, Louisiana, and Texas) have laws requiring school buses to be equipped with safety belts for passengers.  Between 2005 and 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) reported 1,191 crashes involving school buses or vehicles functioning as school buses. NHTSA provided new safety standards following UCLA school bus crash analysis. Essentially, NHTSA introduced “compartmentalization”, a design concept that minimized the impact of a collision by packing kids closer together. For added security, seats are now bolted to the floor and seatbacks are raised.  In November, 2016, Mark Rosenkind, then Administrator of NHTSA, publicly voiced his support for the 3-point seatbelts in school buses:  “The position of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is that seatbelts save lives. . . that is true whether in a passenger car or in a big yellow bus.”  The cost factor is not prohibitive. Buses can be retrofitted with 3-point safety belts at a cost ranging between $7,000 and $11,000 per bus.  The American Academy of Pediatric Medicine has long recommended that passenger seatbelts be installed on newly-manufactured school buses. The National

Safety Council has made similar recommendations:  “[Seatbelts are] the best protection we can give our kids. It is what they are used to in cars. We know that there are very few fatalities involving children on school buses every year — they are a safe form of transportation — but anything we can do to make them safer is really our responsibility.” Deborah Hersman, President and CEO National Safety Council. (Emphasis supplied.)

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