Recent School Bus Accidents Revive Calls For Seat BeltsMay 10, 2005 | USA TODAY
A bus carrying 53 students hit two cars stopped at a red light in Liberty, Mo., on Monday morning, killing two adults in the cars and sending 23 students to the hospital.
Several students suffered life-threatening injuries and were taken by helicopter to local emergency rooms. "We have head injuries, broken bones (and) a lot of fractures," said Jennifer Benz, spokeswoman at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., where nine students were being treated.
The cause of the accident, the latest in a series of fatal crashes involving a school buses, is under investigation. But the accidents have renewed calls to put seat belts on the nation's 585,000 school buses.
School buses are the safest way to travel to school. Nonetheless, an average of 20 students are killed every year; five while riding the bus and 15 run over by buses while getting on or off them. And the image of students killed or injured in bus accidents can make parents shudder. In recent weeks:
Two students were killed April 28 in Arlington, Va., when a school bus collided with a garbage truck.
A school bus equipped with seat belts in New York City flipped April 26. The 44 sixth-graders on board suffered minor injuries.
A 16-year-old high school sophomore died March 29 in Ripley, Okla., when a bus struck a flatbed truck. The driver of the truck also died. The bus driver faces charges of negligent homicide.
"School buses are old-fashioned, out-dated and don't give children the benefit of current safety techniques," says Alan Ross, president of the National Coalition for School Bus Safety. He says school buses should have seat belts and be redesigned so they are not so top-heavy and prone to rolling over.
New York, New Jersey and Florida require new buses to have seat belts, but only New Jersey and Florida require students to use them, says Michael Martin, executive director of the National Association for Pupil Transportation, which represents school transportation directors and the school bus industry.
Seat belts would save about one life a year, Martin says. Installing seatbelts similar to those in cars would add about $4,000 to the $80,000-$95,000 cost of a new 66-seat bus, he says.
School bus travel is the safest way to get to school when measured by miles traveled or number of trips, according to a 181-page report called The Relative Risks of School Travel, produced by the Transportation Research Board, an independent panel that advises Congress. Most dangerous: teens driving to school - 100 times more deadly than riding a school bus, when measured by miles traveled.
"The image of a school bus wreck or a plane crash grabs you. People don't identify as closely with the fact that 43,000 people die every year in car crashes," says Douglas Robertson, director of the Highway Safety Research Center at the University of North Carolina.
The 8:30 a.m. bus crash in Liberty, Mo., sent panicked parents to the scene. Motorists and workers in nearby stores rushed to help the injured children. The bus was carrying kindergarten-through-fifth-grade students to school in Liberty, a town of 28,000 just northeast of Kansas City. "It's a worst nightmare," said Liberty School Superintendent Scott Taveau.