Residents in the South Shore town of Marshfield, MA voted 88 to 73 in a town meeting this week to approve a citizens petition to implement three-point seat belts on all school buses transporting children to and from school, sporting events and class trips.
The petition was created by resident Stephen Lynch out of safety concerns. Lynch, who is a father of three, discussed the stark reality of school bus accidents occurring each day-resulting in serious injuries to students and even death.
“Many of these injuries could have been prevented through seat belts,” Lynch stated in the meeting. Retrofitting buses, Lynch added, “Does not compare with the millions of dollars we spend at Town Meeting on discretionary projects that do not save lives.”
The amended petition would not take effect until 2016, when the Marshfield Public School District’s current bus contract expires. The Marshfield School Committee will also spend the next year reviewing the petition and vote, as well as negotiations with bus companies. Cost, according to Committee Chair Marti Morrison, will be a factor in deciding which bus company to contract services with. Marshfield Superintendent Scott Borstel said that it could cost up to an estimated $10,000 to retrofit buses with seat belts. Additionally, many attendees of the meeting raised the question of the sizes of seat belts and how these three-point safety systems would work for both small and large children. Once installed in buses, students will have the option to buckle up, but they will not be required to.
Currently there are six states in the U.S. that require seat belts on school buses: New York, New Jersey, California, Florida, Louisiana and Texas. Massachusetts does not currently require the use of seat belts on school buses, but some school districts, including Wellesley and Waltham, have already outfitted buses with the life-saving device. According to Borstel, buses weighing more than 5 tons are designed to protect passengers in the event of an accident-that is why there are currently no laws in place for passenger buses that large, and why buses weighing less than 10,000 pounds are required to have seat belts.
SCHOOL BUS ACCIDENTS
School buses, while an economical and efficient form of transportation for children, are sometimes involved in accidents which can cause serious bodily injury or death to children. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which oversees federal motor vehicle safety standards to ultimately prevent and reduce the incidence of accidents, and accident-related injuries and fatalities, has established numerous codes and standards for buses to meet in order to carry passengers. These standards involve the implementation of emergency exits and a withstanding roof structure, and take into account the safety of seating and fueling systems as well as bus body integrity.
How Safe Are School Buses?
As illustrated with the citizens vote in Marshfield, enhancing safety on buses has been a topic of discussion for many years; and the debate of whether to install seatbelts in all school buses has drawn both support and skepticism from parents, school officials, and transportation and safety organizations alike.
According to the NHTSA, school buses are one of the safest and most reliable forms of public transportation in our country and more than 20 million children rely on these public services. Because of their size and weight, buses are able to distribute crash forces differently that passenger vehicles; making them approximately 7x safer than passenger cars and light trucks. According to NHTSA’s data (sourced from their most current information from 2008), the occupant fatality rate of children involved in school bus accidents is about 0.2 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled; annually that averages to 6 passenger fatalities per year.
Taking into account their size and their “compartmentalized” design, federal regulators, including the NHTSA, have deemed seatbelts in buses unnecessary, and not much more effective in preventing injuries during certain types of accidents.
What to Do If Your Child Is Involved In a School Bus Accident
As parents whose children regularly access public transportation, you put your faith and trust into the bus driver transporting your child to school. Having a child injured in a school bus accident is every parent’s nightmare and something that no parent or family should ever experience.
If your child was recently involved in a school bus accident and was injured, it is generally in your best interest to contact the services of an experienced Bus Accident Attorney to discuss your legal rights and options. School bus accident cases are often complex and often involve assessing liability and bringing claims against third parties, including insurance companies.
At the law offices of Altman & Altman, our team of seasoned personal injury attorneys has handled all types of personal injury and car accident cases for clients across the Commonwealth. With nearly 50 years of experience, our team has the knowledge to help clients obtain the best medical care for their injuries whilst providing the highest level of legal counsel available, to ultimately achieve the compensation they are entitled to. We promise to stand by our clients and guide them through every aspect of their case until reaching settlement, and are available around the clock-including nights and weekends-to address any questions and concerns they may have. Call or email our office today to schedule a consultation with one of our revered attorneys. All initial consultations are completely free and confidential.
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