SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) - “How many more beautiful little ones have to perish before they install seat belts, which are mandatory on every other four-wheeled vehicle on the planet,” wrote one Facebook commenter on the WSAV page.
“Children need seatbelts when on a school bus… get it!!” another commenter wrote.
According to national statistics, 485,000 buses carry more than 25 million children to and from school.
301 children have died in crashes in the last 10 years, but only 54 of those were actually on a bus.
And school buses are 70 times safer than taking a car to school.
In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Board’s Director said that every child on every bus should have a three-point seat belt.
Right now, only seven states (California, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana) have mandatory school bus seat belt laws on the books.
But two of those, Texas and Louisiana, have never funded that law — so its never been enforced.
Funding — that may be the key word for many.
Our research shows that it would cost an extra $7,000 to $10,000 to add seat belts to current school buses.
Beaufort County says just for the 40 buses the school system owns, it would be $360,000.
To add belts to every school bus in South Carolina — that balloons to $18 million.
SEAT BELT ADDITIONAL COST PER BUS IN SOUTH CAROLINA:
Bus Capacity Cost per Bus
That doesn’t account for any bus made before 2011, which can’t fit the belts in their design at all.
The buses are already fitted with safety features called “compartmentalization.” High, energy-absorbing seat backs and closely spaced seats prevent children from moving around, almost like an egg carton.
But as tests show, that doesn’t account for a rollover.
Small buses, under 30 people, are required to have seat belts, but many of those deal almost exclusively for special needs students.
The people who say seat belts are not a good idea to point to the kids themselves as a potential problem.
Is giving them a long strap with a metal end to “play with” a good idea? Will they be able to unbuckle quickly enough to save themselves in case of a fire?
Since the deadly crash in Chattanooga last year, in which six elementary school students were killed, 19 more states, including South Carolina have introduced seat belt bills.
That bill currently sits in a South Carolina House committee on education. It has not come up for a vote.
News 3 contacted several area school systems, including Chatham County, and none would come out either for or against the idea.
Without a consensus on the issue, buses may be beltless for a long time.