Seat Belt Debate Seems to Have School on the Defensive | KNR
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Written by
KNR Legal
Date posted
December 23, 2015

On behalf of Kisling, Nestico & Redick posted in Truck Accidents on Thursday, December 10, 2015.

In a post earlier this month, we invited reader input on the question of whether the time has come to get behind the idea of three-point seat belts for every seat on every school bus. That’s a proposal the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been stumping for.

As we noted in that post, the idea has wide appeal among safety officials who point to statistics that show seat belts save lives. At the same time, there’s widespread recognition that school buses without belts are well designed to protect children in accidents. And some say it would cost too much to install the belts and nearly impossible to ensure their use.

Indeed, it seems that is a position held by even some organizations who acknowledge the value of seat belts, as one deadly accident in Oklahoma reflects.

That accident involving a semitrailer truck and a bus occurred in 2014, but it wasn’t until just a few weeks ago that the National Transportation Safety Board issued findings of its investigation. Four young women on the bus died and several others in that vehicle were hurt.

The key finding of the NTSB was that the driver of the semi failed to control his vehicle — likely as a result of his suspected use of synthetic marijuana. The truck left its northbound lane of travel, crossed a wide stretch of median and crashed into the southbound bus. The truck continued across two more lanes of freeway before stopping. Investigators say there was no indication the trucker tried to slow down or take evasive action.

The NTSB also observed that the bus was equipped with seat belts. Unfortunately, they were not in use despite a school policy requiring that. The board said all four of the victims who died were partially or fully ejected in the collision and that injuries could have been reduced if belts had been worn.

In the wake of the findings, the school issued a statement acknowledging its seat belt policy. At the same time, it said the bus wasn’t required by federal law to have belts, that wearing the belts wouldn’t have prevented the crash and that the bus driver couldn’t have done anything to avoid the accident.

Perhaps the school is simply trying to deflect any possible personal injury or wrongful death claims.