For years, activists have warned of a secret killer on America’s roads, endangering millions of children and motorists: school buses.
This week, 11 children and two adults were rushed to the hospital when their school bus crashed into a Honda Accord in Bel Air, Maryland.
The shocking crash was preceded by another in Pennsylvania a week earlier that left 49 children and two adults hospitalized after the school bus crashed into a tow truck.
In fact, an average of 121 deaths are recorded each year in school bus-related accidents, with a staggering 26,000 children injured, according to the data tracking site. Gitnux Market Data.
This has led campaigners to warn that aging shuttles without seat belts are putting lives at risk. And while concerned parents may be shocked to learn these statistics, many have been wondering for some time: Why isn’t America modernizing its school buses?
A series of recent school bus accidents have raised questions about the safety of the vehicles, which transport more than 25 million children every day. Pictured: A school bus after a horror crash that hospitalized 49 children and two adults in Pennsylvania on September 6.
Worrying statistics show that buses are dangerous both because of the lack of seat belts and the risk the huge vehicles pose to other drivers. Pictured: A massive multi-car pileup following a school bus crash in North Carolina in May 2022, hospitalizing 15 children
Today, school buses make up the largest public transportation system in the United States, with more than 25 million schoolchildren riding more than 480,000 school buses each day, according to the American School Bus Council.
Of the 26,000 school bus-related injuries, 54 percent are due to car crashes directly involving the buses, with the vast majority of deaths due to other motorists colliding with the bulky vehicles.
This trend has seen horrific accidents crop up in states like Ohio, Massachusetts and Maryland in recent weeks, but one of the root causes of the problem may lie deeper: the lack of seat belts on school buses Across the country.
The reason has left some perplexed, because the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration states that only buses with a gross weight of 10,000 pounds or less must be equipped with seat belts.
Although that seems high, most school buses weigh around 25,000 pounds and officials have apparently opted for a “compartmentalization” system.
Eight states have passed legislation making seat belts mandatory on school buses, leaving the remaining 42 to leave millions of schoolchildren “secure” only by well-filled, padded seats.
As proof of the shortcomings of this approach, shocking footage taken from inside a school bus crash reveals how unsafe children are sent flying when the heavy machines tip over.
But even though drivers – who wear seat belts – can be held responsible for some accidents, it appears that buses can be dangerous even when stationary, with more than 3,000 injuries reported each year by children who ride or simply got off the bus.
Campaigners have warned that the absence of seat belts in favor of waterproof, padded “compartments” on school buses is a dangerous flaw.
Despite countless children being sent to hospitals, NHTSA has argued for maintaining the “solution” over the cost of making some improvements.
“There is no doubt that seat belts play an important role in ensuring the safety of passengers in these vehicles,” the authority said, according to the release. EngineBiscuit.
“But school buses are different in design, including a different type of safety restraint system that works extremely well.”
Although the transportation agency may claim it works “extremely well,” one person who objects to that claim is Rudy Breglia, 75, a safety activist who started the organization School Bus Seat Belt Safety Alliance in 2016 after a fatal accident in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It was one of the worst in recent memory, during which six students tragically lost their lives.
Aiden Clark tragically lost his life last month in an accident in Springfield, Ohio – which also injured 27 other students.
Breglia says he has spent seven years pleading with officials to listen to him, admitting that the lack of action increasingly worries him.
“I feel like I need to do it before this big accident happens,” he said. NPR last month. Some might argue that this is already the case – repeatedly.
Breglia spoke after elementary school student Aiden Clark, 11, tragically died last month when he was thrown from a bus when his school bus overturned in Springfield, Ohio.
The same crash also left more than two dozen students injured, none of whom had the option of wearing a seat belt, but the driver did.
While it is true that a large number of school bus fatalities involve the other vehicle in the collision, these figures will do little to reassure parents who send their children to school each morning.
After the devastating crash that claimed the 11-year-old’s life, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine cited the tragedies in his state as reason to launch a task force to investigate the question.
“We can make things safer and that’s what we want to look at,” he said.
“Seat belts are certainly one of the things this task force will look at, but they will look at other things. They’ll see if we’ve missed anything over the years (like) patrol inspection, buses , the bus driver.
The school bus from which Aiden Clark was ejected and 27 other students were injured did not have a seat belt and its sheer weight caused the vehicle to overturn.
Rudy Breglia, a school bus safety activist, has spent seven years frustrated by the lack of action on the lack of seat belts on school buses, but says he is more determined than ever because he “has to get this done before ‘a big accident doesn’t happen’. ‘
Before DeWine took the issue to a task force, there were signs that the fleet of school buses littering America’s streets was slowly receiving environmentally friendly upgrades.
In June 2023, the Department for Transport announced it would provide almost $1.7 billion in grants to purchase low-emission buses in 46 states and territories.
The grants will be used to purchase about 1,700 eco-friendly buses, a fairly small fraction of the 480,000 school buses on U.S. roads.
These concerns come amid a continuing shortage of school bus drivers that is causing chaos across the country – with children arriving late or not returning home until dark.
HopSkipDrive, which offers school transport services, has released data suggesting driver shortages are increasing, with 92% of school leaders reporting operational issues as a result.
This problem has caused school districts in states like Kentucky, Illinois and Florida to rethink their transportation plans, leading to massive delays, canceled classes and stranded children.