Opinions mixed on need for seat belts in school buses

POSTED: 6:11 PM Sep 24 2012   UPDATED: 9:02 PM Sep 24 2012
BUS SAFETY

As of Monday afternoon, only one student remains in the hospital following last week's school bus accident in Washington County, Tennessee. Now some parents may have concerns about putting their kids back on one.

Getting kids to and from school is a major responsibility for Holston Bus Company. "We haul approximately 12,000 kids per day," said Kenny Morrell, owner of Holston Bus Company.

That's why safety is taken seriously.

Morrell told us buses have special metal bars every 16 inches that keep the roof from collapsing on students if there's a crash.

We learned there are seven different exits, and the seats are designed with four inches of foam padding to keep kids in place. "If a bus comes to a sudden stop, it just goes up against that foam rubber. If it goes in the front, it goes back against that foam rubber," said Morrell.

News 5 found out when it comes to strapping in on the way to school, opinions are mixed as to whether seat belts are actually needed.

Parents like Elaine Riner think it's a good idea. "I'm thinking about how fast speed limits go and how people go over speed limits. Now that I have children, it doesn't seem like a bad idea at all," said Riner.

But school bus driver Bradey Tankersley told us she has her worries. "If it was to catch on fire, it would make it just that much harder to get the students off the bus, and it doesn't take long for a bus to catch on fire at all. I mean, you wouldn't have time to get them all out," said Tankersley.

Kenny Morrell also worries without an aide on the bus, kids wouldn't even use the seat belts. They might even use them for weapons.

We found out Kingsport City Schools have used seatbelts on buses since 1996. Morrell said he'd be glad to have them too, but he feel buses are just as safe the way they are.

"We think that a school bus is the safest vehicle in the United States," Morrell said.

We did some checking with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. According to their website, they've found compartmentalization, the padded seats feature, is the most effective way to keep students safe.

The group also states a school bus is seven times safer than the average passenger car.