School buses lack safety belts

Ohio lacks any requirements for seat belts on school buses, even though one proponent argued that wrongful death and personal injury verdict awards would drop. More importantly, there are six child fatalities in this country each year, while 7,000 children also suffered injuries in school bus accidents.

Costs have been an argument against mandatory seat belts in this debate, which has been ongoing for 40 years. However, current installation costs would be approximately $8,000 for a newly-ordered bus. This would cost only five dollars per student over the life of the vehicle. Additionally, insurance costs would drop because of the anticipated decrease in claims paid out over lawsuits if seat belts were required.

The costs savings to Ohio could be substantial because there are no caps on wrongful death and personal injury monetary judgments in this state for deaths and injuries in these accidents. But, there are also other benefits in addition to reducing fatalities, injuries and costs. These include restoring order among passengers, inhibiting bullying and lowering driver distraction.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration complicated this issue by changing its position, according to a proponent. In 2009, the NHTSA required 3-point lap shoulder belts for small buses. In 2015, however, this agency only recommended seat for larger buses because of the cost. The NHTSA now leaves decisions on seat belts to individual school districts.

Nevada, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Louisiana, California, Texas and Arkansas are the only states that mandate this equipment on school buses. Bills mandating seat belts were also introduced in 20 other states. However, the number of deaths in school bus accidents almost doubled in 2016.

Families who experience the loss of a loved one because of another person's negligence or inadequate safety equipment may be able to seek compensation in a lawsuit. An attorney can help families gather evidence and represent them in settlement negotiations and court proceedings.

Source: Cleveland.com, "40 years later there are still no safety belts for children in school buses; local activist keeps up the drum beat," Linda Gandee, Jan. 15, 2018

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