Recently, in the state of North Carolina, there has been a push to put seat belts on buses. The implementation seems imminent, as Transylvania and Henderson Counties have already began to switch to the new buses.
“Henderson County currently has 23 school buses with seat belts,” said Fred Klupp, director of transportation for Henderson County. “So far they are only at the elementary school level, and they have been received quite well. The goal for the county is to eventually replace all of the buses [in Henderson County] with buses that have seat belts.”
Each bus costs approximately an additional $6,000 to $7,000.
“The buses without seat belts cost around $90,000, and the new buses cost anywhere from $96,000 to $97,000,” Klupp said.
The goal, according to Klupp, is to provide a safer bus ride for students across the county. Recently, bus crashes have been receiving much more attention, and many people feel that buses without seat belts can lead to tragedies.
“We offered this option on new school buses this year upon request,” said Derek Graham, section chief of transportation services for the NC Department of Public Transportation. “There’s definitely more movement in this direction nationally.”
On Oct. 19, 2018, in Abbeville County, South Carolina, a bus carrying fourth graders back from a field trip crashed after running through a utility pole and a fence. There were 29 people on the bus including the driver. 13 of the passengers were taken to the hospital, nine of which were elementary school kids.
None of the students were reported to be in critical condition, but due to crashes like the one in Abbeville County, Henderson County has begun to implement the bus seat belts.
“The intent is to make a safer bus ride for the students,” Klupp said. “When a bus crashes, it is usually rear-ended or rear-ends another car, but buses are sturdy enough to withstand that. What we’re worried about is buses running off the road, or turning over and rolling. That’s when students get hurt.”
No plan will be unanimously approved by the community, and this plan is no different. Many students and bus drivers alike said they do not like the idea of bus seat belts.
“I don’t really think that bus seat belts will make much of a difference for student safety,” West Henderson bus driver Shelley Brown said. “I’m the only adult on the bus, and it would be difficult to make sure that students are buckled up. The biggest safety hazard is students yelling, and distracting me while I’m driving.”
The county has measures in place to ensure the new school bus rules are followed. This includes a two strike system where students are warned once before being barred from riding on the buses again.
John Hart, principal of Glenn C. Marlow Elementary School, received three buses with seat belts, and said the seat belts do not cause many problems for students.
“Overall, the students seem to understand that this is for their own safety,” Hart said. “The only students that are not okay with it are the older students, but they still understand that we’re trying to keep them safe. We’ve actually had less disciplinary actions on buses since the implementation of the buses with seat belts, so I think that this is definitely a step in the right direction for our student’s safety.”
By: Evan O’Donnell, News Editor