In a first, one company is making three-point seatbelts standard on all school buses


On any given school day, more than 25 million kids ride a school bus, one of the safest vehicles on the road — with one exception: the vast majority of those buses have no seatbelts.

Videos of accidents involving school buses show kids bouncing around like sneakers in a dryer, and it’s not just the students who are in danger.

Doug Williamson’s sister, 5th grade teacher Jennifer Williamson-Kennedy, was killed along with a student on a school bus in 2018 when a dump truck crushed the bus while riding on a New Jersey highway. 

Williamson-Kennedy was a beloved teacher who taught in the district her entire career. There’s now a scholarship in her name and people still leave things on her brother’s porch in her memory years later.

The bus actually had lap belts, but not the much safer three-point safety belts.

“If they all had safety belts that day, it would have been a different outcome,” Williamson said.

The crash led the state to pass more robust seatbelt safety laws.  

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have long said seatbelts are safest, and a crash test at IMMI’s Indiana facility observed by CBS News shows it. A box truck moving at 40 mph hurtled into a stationary school bus. The crash dummies inside wearing three-point seat belts barely moved, while the unbelted dummies were sent flying.

Over one 10-year period, 1,110 people were killed in school bus crashes, an average of 111 people a year. As a result, eight states have laws on the books requiring new school buses to have seat belts.

Mark Rosekind, the former administrator of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, recommended seat belts on school buses back in 2015, but many in the industry fought back, often citing the cost — more than $8,500 per bus.

“They use that as an excuse not to take action in an area they know could save lives,” Rosekind said.

Drivers are also at risk, as until recently, none of the iconic yellow school buses came equipped with airbags for the driver.

Starting this fall, bus manufacturer Blue Bird’s new buses will offer three-point seatbelts for every passenger. Next year, they will include driver airbags at no extra cost, thanks to IMMI.

“This is an industry first,” Blue Bird President Britton Smith said. “First time that there’s been three-point lap shoulder belts as standard equipment.”

Safety advocacy groups and agencies have been calling for these features for years. Rosekind is hoping Blue Bird’s changes spread throughout the industry and the country.

“This should be a gauntlet. This should be the standard,” he said.



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