Why don’t children wear seat belts on the bus? A question that most of us have wondered but never really asked. Now that question is back on the national stage after the horrific accident in Chattanooga, Tennessee where six children lost their lives and almost all others were injured, some critically so.
More than 20 of the 37 students on board were injured, some critically. Six students died: 10-year-old Zyanna Janal Harris, 9-year-old Cor'Dayja Jones, 9-year-old Zoie Nash, 8-year-old Keontae Wilson, 6-year-old D'Myunn Brown and 6-year-old Zyaira Mateen. (USA Today, 11/29/16.)
Now many are wondering could seat belts have saved the lives of the children who died in the crash. Seat belts are no guarantee in surviving a crash; however, it does increase the odds of survival.
The 2008 bus didn't have seat belts. Records released by the local school district last week showed that schoolchildren had complained in the past about Walker's driving, saying it was too fast and that he made sharp turns. Meanwhile, Walker had told administrators that students wouldn't listen to him when he told them not to stand in the bus and not to sit with their backs facing the front. (USA Today, 11/29/16)
There are only 6 states that require school buses to be equipped with seat belts. Over the years many organizations recommended and lobbied for seatbelts to be mandatory on all newly manufactured school buses, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and National Safety Council.
This bus crash has gotten me thinking about my own state, Indiana. We do not require our school buses to have seat belts. And even though I work at a school that does not provide bus transportation, I am concerned about think about the countless Hoosier students who do ride a bus to and from school every day. I think about all the times we take field trips on school buses and no one is strapped in.
It is very sad--but far too common-- that it took an unimaginable tragedy like what happened in Chattanooga to bring this very important topic to the forefront of people’s minds. Triumph has been known to emerge out of tragedy so perhaps we will finally conjure up the will to ensure that our children, our students, are as safe as they can be on their way to and from school. It will be indefensible if we wait for another tragedy like what just happened in Tennessee to do the right and smart thing for our kids.