NEW ORLEANS — Wednesday morning, nine New Orleans students were taken to a hospital after a school bus accident. While there is no way to know for sure if seat belts would have made a difference in this case, these accidents often bring up questions about why school buses don't have seat belts. National and local laws help answer some of those questions.
A 20 year old Louisiana law would require seat belts on school buses. In 1999, the Louisiana Legislature approved rules saying every school bus must have a restraint system, but the same law also said it's subject to the appropriation of funds. Since funds weren't ever approved for seat belts, the law hasn't been implemented.
In 2017, a task force in Louisiana looked into whether school buses should have seat belts. Their findings determined seat belts should not be mandated. The report said school buses are already safe plus it's not financially feasible. According to the 2017 report, it would cost about an additional $10,000 to $20,000 per school bus to have seat belts.
Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board announced its recommendation to implement seat belts on all new school buses across the country. While they recognize buses are extremely safe, their investigations found that a seat belt could have made a difference in fatal accidents.
Buses that don't have seat belts, like most in Louisiana, use a technology called 'compartmentalization' which means seats are high, heavily padded and close together. It's compared to protecting riders like eggs in a carton.
As of now there may not be any plans to require adding seat belts to buses here, but incidents like this do bring up more questions about whether buses are as safe as possible to protect children.