PLATTSBURGH — Statistics say chances are very low that, if a school bus is involved in a crash, a student riding on it would be killed. 

Less than one half of 1 percent of the 324,710 fatalities reported across the country between 2006 and 2015 involved a school bus, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration National Center for Statistics and Analysis.

There were 1,172 school-transportation crashes in which someone was killed during that reporting window; 1 in 10 who died was a bus passenger.

In 49 of the wrecks, the bus driver was killed, and 1 out of 5 of the others who died was either a pedestrian or bicyclist.

Almost 75 percent of those fatalities were occupants of the other vehicles involved in the collision with a school bus, according to the center’s analytics. 

FEDERAL REQUIREMENTS

The low-incident numbers can be attributed, in part, to the federal government revising its school-bus construction and safety requirements in 2008.

Smaller school buses, those weighing 10,000 pounds or less, must have a combination lap-shoulder belt for each passenger.

The children are buckled up just like they would be in passenger vehicles, a law the federal traffic agency has had in place for 50 years.

The Traffic Safety Administration has also required that those smaller buses have seats 24 inches high instead of the previous 20 inches, with better shock-absorbing padding.

This compartmentalization design is supposed to limit how much and how hard a school-bus passenger is tossed around during a crash.

STATE LAWS

But that’s as far as federal legislation goes.

Decisions about such restraint requirements for larger-size school buses are left to individual states to create and enforce.

According to the Traffic Safety Administration, New York is one of a handful of states that even have seat-belt-usage laws, and the requirements are different for each state. 

Arkansas, California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey and Texas are the others with laws in place.

Nevada recently passed legislation requiring that new buses manufactured after July 1, 2019, be equipped with harness-type seat belts.

And, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 29 states introduced some kind of school-bus seat-belt law in 2017.

UNDER AGE 4

New York state limits its involvement in school-bus regulations.

It requires that all buses manufactured in the last 30 years be equipped with seat belts, but their actual use is only mandated for children under age 4.

Those kids must be restrained in a federally approved car seat and use a lap seat belt or a combination lap-shoulder belt when riding a smaller bus weighing 10,000 pounds or less, according to state law.

UPGRADES PROPOSED

A bill (A4390) introduced in the New York State Senate last year would mandate seat belt use on all school buses.

It would exempt "school bus attendants and others acting in a supervisory capacity from such requirement; requires that drivers announce, "Everybody fasten your seat belts," before a school bus is placed in motion" and other provisions.

It remains in committee.

And an Assembly proposal would require all buses manufactured for school use after July 1, 2019, come equipped with three-point harness seat belts and more seat-back padding.

And all buses built from April 1, 2004, forward would be retrofitted with the new style seat belt.

However, the proposed bill would also leave it up to each school district to ask its residents if they want to wait for state funding to retrofit its older buses before the deadline on July 1, 2019, or go ahead and pay for the required upgrades so the safety gear could be installed sooner.

There has been no recent action on that bill.

Email Denise Raymo:

draymo@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @DeniseRaymo

Tomorrow: North Country school districts' bus seat-belt policies.

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