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:
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.
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.