• FOX13 Investigates: Would school buses be safer with seat belts?

    By: Kody Leibowitz

    Updated:

    Are school buses safer with seat belts?

    It’s a question FOX13 is examining after the horrific bus crash in Benton Co., Mississippi Tuesday morning. 

    A school bus driver died after a Benton County School District bus rolled over Tuesday morning. 

    Eight students were injured in the crash - four were airlifted. 

    Mississippi law doesn’t require seat belts on school buses.  Would that have made a difference with this crash? The answer is very murky. 

    Not much data has been collected over the years on whether school buses are safer with seat belts. 

    Even two federal agencies offer differing opinions on the stance. 

    In November 2016, six kids died in a school bus crash in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In 2018, two years later, NTSB officials met to talk about its special investigation report into that crash and a 2016 school bus crash in Baltimore. 

    NTSB recommended that states require new buses be built with lap-shoulder seat belts. 


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    In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration agreed with NTSB. 

    The administrator of NHTSA at the time said all school buses should have a three-point seat belt, which is the lap-shoulder seat belt. 

    But with a new administration comes a changing stance.

    NHTSA, which mandates school bus regulations, now states large school buses don’t need seat belts due to a concept called compartmentalization, according to its website

    Smaller school buses, however, are federally required to have seat belts. Those buses are 10,000 pounds or less, according to NHTSA.

    Arguments over safety and money have led organizations to debate seat belts on school buses for years. 

    Eight states do require seat belts in some fashion, include Arkansas.

    The Natural State changed its law in 2017, which mandated that “if funding is provided, a school bus purchased new or leased and used in Arkansas starting January 1, 2018 shall be equipped with a passenger restraint system.”

    But, according to the Arkansas Department of Education, no state funding has been provided for the new law.

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