Should there be seatbelts on school buses?
Increasingly, people seem to think they should. And why not?
For years we’ve been told seatbelts save lives. There’s plenty of information confirming this.
According to Transport Canada, seatbelts worn correctly can reduce the chance death in a collision by 47 per cent, and the chance of serious injury by 52 per cent. ICBC stats show that between 2013 and 2017, there were 257 fatalities where victims weren’t wearing a mandatory safety restraint.
ICBC stats also show that in 2017, there were approximately 350,000 motor-vehicle collisions – or 960 collisions each day.
All good reasons why seatbelt use in consumer vehicles is mandatory in B.C., and has been since 1977.
Last year, federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau initiated an in-depth look at the question of seatbelts in school buses. Around the same time, a 2010 Transport Canada study that was brought to light indicating current safety standards in school buses aren’t enough to help riders in side-impact collisions and rollovers.
Seatbelt installation on school buses should be straightforward decision, right? Only, as our North Okanagan-Shuswap board of education was recently informed, there are significant implications to consider. Seatbelts on new buses would add up to $6,500 to the price tag, while retrofitting existing buses would cost about $10,000 per vehicle. Then there’s provincial legislation making bus drivers responsible for assuring all kids are properly buckled in.
The Canada Safety Council (CSC) argues seatbelts on school buses may not improve safety. They maintain school buses are already one of the safest methods of transportation due, in part, to their compartmentalization design of seating.
That doesn’t mean they can’t be made safer.
While costs and concerns relating to the addition of seatbelts on school buses cannot be dismissed, they do not seem insurmountable. And frankly, if we want our children to adopt the safe habit of buckling up, how can we continue to allow such an egregious exception to continue?