Tennessee school bus crash raises questions about seat belts on buses

The school bus crash that killed five young students Monday in Tennessee has many people talking about whether or not school buses should have seat belts.

‪During a news briefing Tuesday afternoon, NTSB Chairman, Christopher Hart said they would be looking at this tragic crash to see if seat belts would have made a difference

“We’ve made recommendations that upon purchasing new buses, consider the benefits of lap and shoulder belts,” said Christopher Hart.

Steve Satterly is a school safety specialist with Safe Havens International and a transportation safety author.  Satterly said school buses are the safest form of transportation to and from school and if districts are going to move forward with the idea of seat belts, it needs to be studied properly.

"If we start putting them on without studying to find out for sure, we may be going through a lot of cost,” said Steve Satterly.

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Satterly said lap and shoulder belts are more beneficial, but adds that those kinds of seat belts are costly, sometimes thousands of dollars for something that has not been proven to keep children safer on school buses.

“Are you getting more safety for the child for the money that you are spending or is it just a little bit of increase in safety or actually putting the child in more danger by putting them in seat belts for the money you are spending,” said Satterly.

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Satterly also said that the bus driver cannot ensure that all the kids buckle up and stay buckled up and that if the bus is involved in an accident, it would be difficult for the bus driver to get all the students out of the seat belts.

"If they are hanging upside down or if they are hanging sideways, if the bus rolled over, they are going to be very difficult to get off and having a single bus driver with a seat belt cutter trying to get 60-65 kids off, it is going to be a major problem,” said Satterly.

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Experts said the compartment design of the bus keeps students safe, but some argue that children would be much safer in seat belts providing them with the best protection.

"Even with compartmentalization we still need to be concerned with hard surfaces that can cause injury even if you are compartmentalized,” said Hart.

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