In last Sunday’s edition of the Independent Record, we published a story on the issue of whether seat belts should be required in school buses.

There were plenty of opinions on both sides of the issue — you can see the story, and the comments, posted online at

Meanwhile, we asked readers their opinions in our Question of the Week: “Should seat belts be required for students’ seats on school buses?”

Of the roughly 160 responses we received, 100 or 63 percent, were “yes.” The remaining 60 responses — 37 percent — were “no.”

Here are some of the comments we received.

- Ten years ago I owned stock in a company that had invented a lap bar for school buses. I thought is was a great idea, and I bought 100,000 shares. (OK, it was a sub-penny stock.) Needless to say, they went out of business and I lost my money. No state wanted seat belts for their school buses.

The reasoning is pretty basic. The phrase used is “compartmental containment.” Most deaths in accidents used to be caused from passengers being ejected from the vehicle in a wreck. So states enacted seat belt laws for privately owned passenger vehicles.

Buses are a completely different animal. In crashes, the bus is generally the bigger vehicle so it will move the opposing vehicle, moving through the crash and slowing to a stop far less quickly than the impacted other vehicle.

Second, buses are big inside. Windows for school buses are small, heavily fortified and to the side — not to the front. Therefore, in crashes, kids aren’t being thrown out windows and they usually stay within the confines of the vehicle even in rollovers — hence the so-called “vehicle containment.”

Further, in the event of a crash, seat belts could become a real trap, particularly for younger children. So, I say no to seat belts in buses. The costs really aren’t justified.

However, it does come to mind that if belted, rowdiness might be reduced, to say nothing of fights and brawls. 

- Yes! In the event of a serious collision, seat belts could save the lives of many of our children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces, and kids we don’t even know. The only logical objection would be the money that it would cost to retrofit our current fleet of buses. Yet we live in a self-proclaimed God-fearing nation that mindlessly continues to spend billions and billions of dollars — needlessly and tragically — on the war in Iraq, causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, including many children. What are our true values? Clearly, we need a change in thinking.

- It’s long past due. “Only one child is very precious.” Airliner, car and truck makers figured it out a long time ago. Kids are used to buckling up.

- Not having seat belts on buses is a real cop out! The lobby against it must be really strong. It’s all because of costs. But how much is the life of a child worth? The first thing that needs to happen, is to change the ridiculous law that the buses can’t be retrofitted. I hope somebody will sponsor that bill as soon as possible! That would save tons of money. As a parent who has chaperoned trips on buses, I was never comfortable sitting in the front seat. There was nothing to keep a person in the front seat from flying in the event of a fast stop. The front seats of charter buses should have those added immediately. The rest of all buses should be retrofitted shortly thereafter.

Eventually, all new buses need side air bags and seat belts. With modern technology, there should be a feature in which the driver could push a button to release all of the seat belts if the need arises. The seat belts could be more like a bar, like in carnival rides. Let’s get going! Our children and grandchildren’s lives are at stake!

(8) comments


I grew up in another state and the buses there used to have seatbelts. By the time I was in high school the seatbelts were gone. When I asked a bus driver why they didn't have them anymore, she explained that too many kids were using the metal part as a weapon to beat on other kids. Believe it or not, there are still bullies now just like there were back then. So if you think you REALLY want to put your kids in a situation where this can happen to them, keep pushing for this. And if/when you do finally get your way and get the seatbelts, don't even think about suing the school or transportation department when your kid comes home hurt! We really should learn from the mistakes of others!I think there's a very slim chance of a bus getting into an accident that would cause serious/fatal injuries (with or without seatbelts), and I'd rather not, even possibly, put my kids near bullies with dangerous weapons twice a day.


I can't believe it, some poor wretch with Bush Derangement Syndrome is blaming the lack of seat belts in buses on Bush and the Iraq war. What about the lack of seat belts before the war. Who will they blame for not having seat belts before.

Liberals will stoop as low as possible to politicize anything to blame Bush and the Iraq war for everything. Really pitiful.


Then there is this issue...

Standing room only...when I was a kid, and occasionally rode the bus, it was standing room only.

With seat belts, and hence the mandate to follow the law, all children would have to be seated and belted. So then comes the need for more buses, more drivers. etc.

I would imagine there are still places where it is standing room only.


As a school bus driver and a charter bus driver for 10 years, I have some experience with this issue. As a driver, I would love seat belts to keep kids in their seat. But I also drove an 84 passenger bus that had kids K-5 and usually had about 75-80 kids on board at once. Part of our job was mock evacuation drills. They were timed. Without seat belts, I could never get 75 kids off in time. You have to look at statistics and understand that(at least when I drove) school buses without seat belts were safer for your kids than being buckled up in their parents car.

Off the subject a little, but what should be funded is an aid for EVERY school bus to handle discipline issues so the driver can just drive. It would blow your mind how people cut off, in front of and around a school bus. They run your red flashing lights, sometimes on purpose, sometimes just cause they are not paying attention. Asking a driver to handle discipline of 20-80 kids and navigate traffic safely with drivers cutting them off is alot to ask. We don't even ask teachers to handle that many kids and they are not driving. Give school bus drivers a break and show them some courtesy. Fund and aid for every bus to make EVERYONE safer.


I also remember standing up on the bus. But I think it is now illegal in all 50 states but am not sure.

I think our kids will be much safer if some East Helena bus drivers learn that the lack of a stop sign at the intersection at Eastgate School does not mean they do not have to stop at the intersection. There are three stop signs at this intersection so some bus drivers seem to think everyone else has to stop and they blow right through. a professional driver, they should know the law says you must stop when leaving private property (or a driveway) and entering public roads No stop sign is required but the intersection works just like it has all four stop signs. The police should do something about this as some buses just pull right out in from of other traffic on a daily basis and I have seen several close calls.


Most people aren't considering the bigger picture here. Its a known fact that there are about a thousand times more deaths with kids riding either in cars, walking or riding a bike to school then on a school bus that doesn't have seat belts. That right there tells me if they really want to minimize deaths, have all folks ride the bus.

The second issue of course, how does a driver keep his eyes on the road and also insure kids keep in their seat belts? No way possible. In fact, my guess is there will be more lawsuits against drivers for not insuring kids are kept in their seat belt then actual lives saved. Then of course the particular kids that will use part of the seat belt to hit another student. Here again, another lawsuit. Or lets say a bus has to be quickly evacuated and it doesn't happen cause of the time it takes to get everyone unbuckled. Another lawsuit. In fact, the only think that folks will really see is open season of lawsuits.

In a perfect world if seat belts to come to fruitition, if folks have problems "waiting" for their kids to get home now think of how much time it will be with seat belts? And the cars blowing reds now cause the 30 second to a minute stop is too long for them, think of how long it will be with seat belts.


Children are statistically safer riding in a bus than in a car. Also, there is the "egg carton" effect - very little space between the seats allows for less room to travel in case of an accident. Instead of flying forward 3-4 feet in a car, they would only be flying forward less than 2 feet.

As mark pointed out - the evacuation time in case of emergency is too long. Buckles often malfunction and are unable to open, leaving a knife or other sharp instruments the only option to cut the belt.

Lacerations and strangulations are also a hazard with belts. The pressure put on the pelvis with a lap belt only is strong enough to crack open a young child's developing pelvis like a walnut shell, and there is the chance the child could easily slip under the belt and get decapitated. Shoulder belts are also dangerous since they would have to be adjusted to the individual child to fit between the nipples and right above/at shoulder level. Any higher or lower risks decapitating the child or breaking the child's sternum.

I urge anyone with young children to visit the website to ask certified carseat technicians from around the country about carseats and car safety.

The backseat is the safest place for children under 12. Any child weighing under 100lbs and is under 57" needs to be in at least a backless booster. Children under 40lbs and under 40" should be in a 5pt harness. Any child under 20lbs and under 1 year of age should remain REAR FACING. There are carseats that keep children in a 5pt harness up to 65lbs - the Graco Nautilus is a great deal at only $160. The Graco MyRide ($160) keeps a child rear-facing up to 40lbs. The longer a child is rear-facing, the safer. These carseats are available at Target, Walmart, etc.


I was in the same boat as Mark1228, and agree with his points. Discipline on a school buss is tough, some drivers have better skills(luck) than others. I could just see it know if they are required to buckle up, , , I would rather try to saddle a wasp.

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