As early as 2014, Mississippi lawmakers might debate whether to require installation of seat belts on all school buses. Currently, Mississippi’s seat belt law only applies to school buses and other vehicles that carry 15 or fewer passengers. The law requires all people in the front seat and those up to the age of seven wear a seat belt. Larger school buses, however, have never been required to have seat belts. That could all change in the coming year.
Proponents of the law requiring seat belts in buses say that safety belts could help reduce the severity of children’s injuries in the event of a bus accident. Fourteen year old Katie Beth Simmons, a student at East Rankin Academy, told a group of lawmakers her experience last year. Katie had been riding her school bus, without a seat belt, and the bus came to a sudden stop. She was thrown into the seat in front of her, hitting her face.
Katie also expressed concern about the dangerous antics of younger children on school buses. She stated that her four year old sister and many other young children stand up on the bus and hop around. She supported the idea of requiring seat belts as it would increase the safety of all school bus passengers by preventing standing, and additionally minimize injuries in the event of a crash or short stop.
Opponents of the measure point first to the expense. The state budget is already stretched paper thin. Requiring the addition of seat belts to school buses would be a substantial expense which opponents urge the state cannot handle. Furthermore, critics say even with the addition of seat belts, school bus drivers would struggle to ensure students wear the belts. Additionally, some caution that students could hit one another with the belts, and the belts might not be one size fits all– seatbelts designed for the larger children may not prove safe for the younger ones.
Nationwide, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration estimates that 19 children a year are killed in school bus accidents. A search conducted by the State Department of Education revealed that school bus accidents occur in Mississippi at an alarming rate. In the last year, 184 school bus accidents took place. No fatalities were associated with these crashes, but injuries were reported with some.
In one recent bus crash in Clinton County, a vehicle rear-ended a school bus full of children. Three students were transported to the hospital with injuries. All students made a full recovery but no doubt experienced a frightening ordeal. In a harrowing accident occurring in Brandon, Mississippi, nine school children were injured following a multi-car collision. A Tahoe ran a red light as the school bus was making a left turn. Twenty-six students were on the school bus and seven had to be transported to the hospital.
The installation of seat belts would cost approximately $7,000 to $10,000 per bus. Rep. Johnny Stringer of Montrose suggests that having prisoners install the belts could be a way to cut costs. While the cost to install seat belts will certainly be substantial, the safety of our children is of monumental importance. The recent rash of school bus accidents in Mississippi indicates that some action needs to be taken to ensure school children are safe.
At the Giddens Law Firm, we have extensive experience representing crash victims, including victims of school bus accidents. We understand the importance of safety belts and have seen firsthand the difference they can make in minimizing injuries. If you have been injured in an automobile, truck, or bus accident, call us today at 601-355-2022. Your initial consultation is always free and our representation is second to none.