As a parent, my job is to protect my kids. My wife and I recently had to tell our second-grade daughter that she couldn’t go on an upcoming field trip, which included a short but significant ride on a stretch of highway. Our decision caused more than a few tears. The problem: The buses in our school district don’t have seatbelts, and that was a non-starter.
When our daughter started public school last year, we knew that the buses lacked seatbelts. We felt better when school officials described the daily bus route: 25-35 mph roads, roughly five miles round-trip. They also described the bus seats as “specially designed,” and the drivers as well-trained. My daughter has been riding the bus to and from school for nearly two years, without incident. But the highway changed that.
We often hear that school buses are safe and that crashes are rare. Without doubt, school buses are designed to minimize injury—padded seats, raised passenger compartment, and other non-restraint safety measures. School buses are also quite visible and immediately recognizable. The drivers are, in fact, highly trained, and most school bus-related injuries/deaths occur when kids are waiting for, boarding, or exiting the bus.
Still, thousands of children suffer injuries every year while riding the bus, and it stands to reason just how many of those injuries could have been prevented with a simple, common sense requirement that state legislators have been debating for years. Detractors cite that implementing seats belts in school buses is too costly. They also cite the fact that injuries related to bus accidents are rare. But just because it’s rare doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Consider school fires: they are more rare than school bus crashes. They result in fewer injuries and deaths. And yet, no one would argue that school fire drills waste money. Same goes for sprinklers and smoke alarms.
In Illinois, House Bill 3377 would require three-point seat belts to be installed on all school buses made after the effective date of the bill. It’s a step in the right direction, though it could take a decade for the state to implement the new law (school districts typically replace 10% of their bus fleet each year). But the bill makes sense, protects our kids, and deserves to become the law.
Please contact your Illinois representative and voice your support for HB3377.