The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration or NHTSA as it is known recently denied a massive petition from consumer safety groups and others who were attempting to require seat belts to be installed in school buses. NHTSA rejected the arguments saying that school buses are already safe for passengers. In denying the request, NHTSA said that the cost to install seat belts in buses would outway the benefits that would be gained by having them.
NHTSA went on to say that mandating seat belts in school buses would likely reduce the bus services that schools offer. This is because the schools might not be able to afford to install seat belts in their buses. The lack of funds would cause a reduction in bus service which in turn would lead to more students seeking alternative transportation to school. The Traffic Safety organization said that students walking or riding to school in cars are both more dangerous than bus travel.
NHTSA's official notice on this topic said that they feel the decision to put seat belts in buses should be left to state and local governments. They did say that the cost of each fatality prevented would be between $23 and $36 million dollars. To me this seems like it could buy a lot of seat belts.
Cited in the petition to require seat belts was a 1999 study by the National Transportation Safety Board comparing similar bus crashes where some buses had seat belts and others did not. The NTSB, the federal organization charged with the duty of investigating tranportation related accidents, seems to feel differently than NHTSA.
If we take the lowest cost of a bus death ($23 million) and divide it by the most expensive cost to install seat belts in one bus ($7,346), this means that for the cost of one death, we could install seat belts in 3,130 buses. I think the math speaks for itself. I would rather spend the money saving lives and preventing catastrophic injuries than paying families for the losses of their loved ones.
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