(insert pithy rejoinder here)

School Bus Soapbox

I don’t normally use my blog to voice personal opinions, but today I need to address an issue that has been brought my attention. For those of you who may not know, real world Hellis drives a school bus. Lately I’ve been asked the question “Why don’t school buses have seat belts?” multiple, multiple, MULTIPLE times.

What some of you may not know is that statistically, school buses are the safest mode of transportation available, outweighing even airline travel. (for statistics click HERE). There is also information out there suggesting that school bus seat belts are the way to go (for those statistics click HERE). My post today isn’t meant to dispute either set of statistics, but to apply my real world experience to empirical information. I agree that in a perfect world every bus would have a seat belt and every student would be further protected from potential harm. Sadly, I drive a bus in the real world and this just isn’t how things work. I’ll begin by asking a few questions of my own:

1. Have you ever seen a seat belt?

If you haven’t let me describe it. It’s a long, thick vinyl strap with a heavy metal buckle at the end. Now imagine 84 of them. Now imagine 84 eight year-old boys. Now imagine a weapon that swings like a lasso and feels like a mace. Now imagine 84 black eyes and missing teeth. Now imagine being the only adult in charge of controlling that behavior. Behavior that is going on behind your back. While you are driving. And stopping. And driving. And stopping…

2. Who enforces this rule?

If a seat belt is to function properly it needs to be utilized. When was the last time you got a teenager to do anything you considered safe? Again, imagine 84 of them. How do you enforce that rule? Do you stop the bus every time a kid unbuckles themselves? As a driver is it your responsibility to buckle the seat belt around the student if he/she doesn’t comply?

Now imagine you’re a forty-something male bus driver faced with the challenge of buckling in a high school girl. I smell a lawsuit. What then? Do you exempt her from wearing it because you don’t want to appear inappropriate? You can bet that if she doesn’t comply, the other 83 surely won’t.

And what if the students don’t comply and there is an accident. Is the driver responsible for student injury because he/she failed in his/her duties to see that all 84 students not only buckled in but stayed buckled in for the duration of the trip? I am not speaking for the bus driving industry as a whole when I say the moment that scenario became policy, the bus driving industry would have one less bus driver.

3. Who pays for it?

People, the funds just aren’t there. Here’s the math:

My school district has 50 buses. Each school bus requires 84 mated seat belts. That’s 4200 seat belt units required for purchase should a policy be enforced. Each seat belt union cost $18.00 per unit.

Total increase to tax payers – $75,600.

This may not seem like much when you consider a school district budget as a whole, but if you take into consideration the 50 buses at a national average of $75,000 per bus, you are talking about adding $75,600 to an already required payout of $3,750,000.

Keep in mind also that because seat belts function as a safety measure, there is no policy or standard for repair. Every malfunctioning seat belt requires replacement. Who sets the standard for their daily functionality? Do we, as drivers, perform daily buckle inspections? Again, who pays for the time needed to inspect these buckles daily? You better believe my effort spent on buckle inspection will appear on my time card.

I realize that my opinions, and they are “opinions,” may not mesh well with the opinions of others. And I certainly mean no disrespect to anyone out there who has been harmed or had a loved one harmed on a school bus. All I can do is answer the question that has been posed to me many times over the last ten years the best way I know how.

Stay tuned tomorrow for our regularly scheduled blog nonsense.

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36 responses

  1. Regardless of whether people agree or disagree with you, you’ve put forward an excellent statement on the real world practicalities of something that sounds nice in theory.
    Well done, HE.

    May 5, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    • Well thank you, El Guapo. Now…if only surfboards had seat belts.

      May 5, 2012 at 8:14 pm

      • Just seats. that pop up is hard!

        May 5, 2012 at 8:20 pm

  2. I’ve also heard that buses are pretty safe. Go figure. Even though it scares me to not have seat belts, it scares me a little more to imagine what a bunch of unsupervised eight-year-olds would do with them. And what would riding behind a bus be without being mooned by some of the cool backseat kids?

    May 5, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    • My point exactly. And for the record, I was a backseat kid. Thank God they didn’t have cameras back then the way they do now. Totally would’ve been busted.

      May 5, 2012 at 8:14 pm

  3. Folly & the Wrong Men

    as someone who has been fortunate enough to actually hit a school bus, I’m not convinced the kids need seat belts. school buses are safe. if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    May 5, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    • Let me guess- you barely made a dent in it.

      May 5, 2012 at 8:17 pm

      • Folly & the Wrong Men

        no dent in it. not a scratch. me? $800 dollars damage to the car. yup, I think they’re pretty safe.

        May 5, 2012 at 8:22 pm

  4. A few years back a school bus in our area was tail-ended by a semi. There was a little damage to the back of the bus, one of the kids had a broken arm, and the truck was a write-off. Those buses are built HEAVY!

    May 6, 2012 at 1:23 am

    • Yes, they are. Although, I know better than to tangle with a train. I watched a video on railroad crossings and the train that hit the bus looked like a kid kicking a matchbox toy. It left an impression, I’ll tell you.

      May 6, 2012 at 11:07 am

  5. Your yellow school buses are so cute ahaha. We don’t have seat belts on school buses here either (or public transport buses) probably because the local councils run the buses, if we put seat belts in them council tax would go up and everyone already pays enough of that. Or they would make parents pay for their kids bus rides to school. I don’t think there is a way you can make everyone happy in this kind if thing :)

    May 6, 2012 at 5:26 am

  6. Ok so this is where I would like to comment on the safety of school busses,
    They really are safe.
    There I’m done, cause I’m tired and haven’t had coffee.

    May 6, 2012 at 7:33 am

  7. I’ve never really thought about this, but if I do from this point forward I’ve got a terrific base of information from which to draw.

    May 6, 2012 at 9:11 am

    • Said John the spambot. :)

      May 6, 2012 at 11:08 am

      • ahahahahha XD that’s tooo funny.

        May 11, 2012 at 1:00 pm

  8. I don’t think expense is a valid argument against safety – though it does look like seat belts would have been a factor in only a low percentage of crashes/accidents. Enforcement should be no different than enforcing any other safety rule on the bus, whether it be a rule concerning wearing one or striking another student with one. I guess I’m saying that if you’re worried about students using seat belts as weapons, maybe school bus safety isn’t your school district’s biggest concern right now.

    I also noticed that New Hampshire is the only state in America that doesn’t require lap-shoulder seat belts.

    May 6, 2012 at 10:33 am

    • That’s New Hampshire; no seat belts, helmets, insurance or sales tax. Live Free or Die, baby.

      May 6, 2012 at 11:12 am

      • I was just going to say that. And as for a seat belt as a weapon, here’s an experiment for you. Take a room filled with 4th graders at 2:30 in the afternoon, put them in a gym together and place one seat belt in the center of the room then wait 15 minutes. See what happens. I’m willing to bet that at least one kid will be hit by said seat belt. Oh yeah almost forgot- have one adult in the room looking the other way the whole time. Dude that would be epic, just sayin’

        May 6, 2012 at 11:59 am

      • Sounds more like live free AND die.

        May 6, 2012 at 12:16 pm

        • I agree. New Hampshire is definitely not for the weak.

          May 6, 2012 at 12:29 pm

          • Anonymous

            If you are going to die, is it not better to have died after living free?

            May 6, 2012 at 12:33 pm

  9. Not to mention, the annoyance to drivers who are stopped waiting on the kids to sit down and buckle up before the bus can take off. I remember when the bus drivers didn’t have to wait for the kids to sit down they would just start driving as soon as the last one was on the bus. Those were the days!

    May 6, 2012 at 10:41 am

  10. I have visions of a bunch of kids using those seat belts as flails. I’m thinking a seat belt buckle to the head would do some big-time damage. And then there would be hearings and committee meetings to discuss the best way to educate the youngsters on the proper use of seat belts, and how to best enforce seat belt safety. Much hand wringing and fretting would ensue.

    I think your argument is an excellent one.

    May 6, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    • Thanks. You should see what we go through every hockey or lacrosse season with the sticks. It’s a nightmare.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:31 pm

  11. Your buses are pretty iconic, from Superman saving one to one being torched on Hobo with a Shotgun. I wish they had them here, I would get a seat on the train if we did.

    May 7, 2012 at 11:45 am

  12. I think it’s amazing that you kind of talk about your job here. What the hell’s going on? The real world is seeping in? Is this the end?

    May 7, 2012 at 5:20 pm

  13. Couldn’t agree more. And I agree with Sandy too. I can see it now. Even more a-holes would be trying to pass the buss with its flashers on so they didn’t get stuck behind it waiting… and waiting…. and waiting.
    Great piece!

    May 7, 2012 at 6:24 pm

  14. Just put a big screen up front in the bus and play some soft porn. Everyone will take a seat. Word.

    May 11, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    • ….. I was away, spamming your posts was very much missed :) . Back now though.

      May 11, 2012 at 1:02 pm

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