Auto Service World
News   August 9, 2005   by Auto Service World

Seat Belts for School Buses? No, Says Canada Safety Council

School buses will soon be transporting almost three million Canadian children a day. Would these children be safer with seat-belts?
"Statistically, the school bus is the safest way for children to get to school," says Council president Emile Therien. "Over the past 10 years an average of one child per year has died inside a school bus. Most injuries happen outside the bus."
He explains why the Canada Safety Council doesn’t think seat-belts would make school buses safer. Fundamentally, he says, school buses are not built like cars. Buses are much larger, higher and heavier, so they have a body-on-frame design. The bus body would have to be completely re-engineered with seat-belts integrated at the design stage.
Research has shown that lap belts could increase the risk of head injuries in a head-on collision. The child’s head could hit the seat in front, resulting in serious head and neck injuries. Combination lap and shoulder belts would require stiffer seats, which could increase injury to unbelted students. Moreover, the shoulder belts can lead to abdominal injuries because of "submarining"when children slip down, risking injuries to organs covered by the lap belts.
Beyond the engineering problems, Therien notes, someone would need to ensure the seat-belts are used, adjusted properly between uses by small and larger children, and repaired when damaged. In an emergency, seat-belts could hinder evacuation. "Young children should not be placed in a situation where they must become responsible for their own safety," he says.
According to Therien, the real safety issue isn’t seat-belts, it’s reductions in school bus service. Children are 16 times safer riding in a school bus than in a passenger vehicle. Without the bus, they are exposed to risk by walking to school or using other forms of transportation.

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