School Bus: Accidents and Repair

School bus crash kills 9 children, injures 20 others

By Dan Deary, posted in Phoenix truck painting on August 5, 2013

Recently a school bus has crashed into a truck in northern India, killing nine children and injuring 20 others. Witnesses said the bus driver was attempting to overtake another vehicle when he slammed head-on into the oncoming truck.

Police reported that the bus was carrying around 30 children when the accident and at least seven were killed instantly, and two others died in a nearby hospital.

Can tragedies such as these be avoided by having better safety equipment on school buses? Our commercial body shop has repaired many school buses and it is our opinion that the safety equipment in school bus is insufficient to properly protect children in the case of a school bus accident.

A little known fact is most school buses do not have seat belts and the construction of the buses is not near as technologically advanced as the standard automobile being manufactured today, which have safety standard that they have to meet such as air bags, etc. It is not to say that there are not safety standards for school buses, rather it is to say that tragedies such as this story reported may bring further investigation into school bus safety.

In researching school bus safety, published information for the NTSB states:

Some people advocate that large buses—those weighing more than 10,000 pounds—have seat belts to keep children safe. Many experts point out, however, that the seats in large buses are now constructed in a way that seat belts are not needed. The idea is called “compartmentalization.” Seat “compartments” are designed to absorb the force in a crash, protecting the children, School Transportation News says. New bus seats are higher, wider and thicker, and all metal surfaces are covered with padding—all of which absorb energy in a crash. The seat structure allows it to bend forward when a child is thrown against it. Seats are also positioned no more than two feet apart, which limits the distance a child moves during a crash.

Compartmentalization provides protection in a head-on or rear-end collision, but some experts argue that children can still be tossed side to side during an accident, causing injuries and even death, School Transportation News says. When a bus rolls over, for instance, the most common injuries are usually to the head, neck and shoulders. One solution suggested would put extra padding along the sides of the bus interior—over the windows and on the paneling between windows.

There are several drawbacks to seat belts on large buses. They are effective only if they are used, School Transportation News says. On a bus that transports many children, it is difficult to enforce the use of seat belts. Even when in use, they require a lot of maintenance—to adjust them from child to child, to keep them in good working order and to keep them clean. Also, children younger than 8 years old need a chest harness instead of a lap belt.

School Bus RepairIn 2005, California began requiring that all school buses built new and operating in California have three-point safety belts. A three-point belt is attached to the seat on each side of the hips and also has a shoulder harness.

Smaller buses—those that weigh less than 10,000 pounds—are required by federal law to have three-point lap/shoulder seat belts. That’s because federal government views smaller buses as similar to automobiles or light trucks, and federal law requires those vehicles to have seat belts. Not all states, however, mandate their use.

One important safety step that many school districts overlook is an evacuation drill for all students who ride school buses, the National Transportation Safety Board says. The board recommends a twice-yearly drill to review where emergency exits are and how to open them. A drill or safety briefing is also important for extracurricular trips, which may involve students who don’t ride a bus regularly and may not be familiar with the safety features.

The information above certainly brings about valid points and the topic of bus safety in school bus accidents is certainly here to stay.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of All Pro Truck Body Shop or their employees. This article is written for information purposes only and the imagery is only representative.