Following a school bus accident in which a young child was killed in Indianapolis, people alarmed by the incident took to CNN’s website to renew the debate on whether or not school buses should have seat belts.

The accident, which occurred on Monday morning, took place just before 8:00 am when a school bus hit an abutment beneath a concrete overpass, killing a young child as well as the driver. 10 other children were also injured in the accident. An investigation is currently underway and officials are awaiting a coroner’s report to determine whether the driver may have had a medical condition that contributed to the wreck.

As would be expected, readers of the story were divided on whether or not the accident could have been prevented with seat belts. One bus driver weighed in, saying, “I see kids jumping around on school buses all the time as it is moving. At times I wish I could do something about it, but there isn’t much I can do. It can be difficult to control just one child, let alone 20. I think there should be cameras and restrictions like seat belts. Maybe a computer on the bus to indicate all kids are strapped in.” However, as another reader pointed out, the small size of children can make it more difficult to develop safety features that will be effective in the event of a crash. As the reader explained:

“Airbags can deploy with enough force to completely decapitate a small child, so curtain protection would be ruled out. Hard side-rail restraints would be ruled out as most school bus collisions are lateral impacts. This is why in a family car all restraints are adjusted to the individual passenger or my key does not go in the ignition…Most school buses carry many different sizes of children so this will be a really tough problem that will not be solved by a one-size-fits-all approach nor by a greedy politician that just wants the next electoral win.”

Additionally, some expressed concerns that seat belts in school busses could actually increase safety hazards in the event of a crash. The argument being, that in the event of an accident causing a fire, seat belts actually make it harder to evacuate children from a burning bus.

Regardless of where you fall on the seat belt debate, it’s not likely to be decided online. Right now six states (including California) have passed bills requiring all new buses to be equipped with safety belts. Still, when it comes to outfitting older buses with updated safety standards, the biggest hurdle is the cost. It can be anywhere from $7,000 to $11,000 to equip a school bus with seat belts, and since the efficacy is still being debated, retrofitting buses across the board seems unlikely.

As it stands, the debate is likely to rage on each time there’s an accident that may (or may not) have been prevented if the child had been using a safety belt.

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen_rees/1816696005/

Jason

Jason is a regular contributor to the GJEL Accident Attorneys Blog.