N.H. Lawmakers: Data Doesn't Support Need for Seat Belts on School Buses

Nov 13, 2017

Credit NHPR File

Don't expect school bus passengers in New Hampshire to be required to buckle up anytime soon.

A committee of state lawmakers studying a school bus seat belt requirement is not recommending any such legislation. The committee was formed in compliance with a House Bill that was signed into law in April.

“There’s just not a lot of data to support that an effort this massive is really going to help,” says Rep. Steven Smith, the committee's chairman.

The report filed by the committee recommends monitoring other states’ attempts in order to gather data on “the risks and rewards.”

Smith notes that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is continuing to study it. That group actually opposed school bus seat belts before changing its position in 2015.

Smith says no states currently require school bus passengers to wear seat belts. And he adds that school buses are already the safest form of public transportation.

 

 

Highlights of the committee's report in response to House Bill 196 include:

  • According to the NHTSA, most of 301 children killed in school bus crashes from 2006 to 2015 were pedestrians or occupants of other vehicles; only 54 of those were passengers.
  • “However, in crafting a statewide policy, we need to ensure that policy to help prevent that death does not incur further risk. Requiring seat belt use may add time to each stop, which is also dangerous.”
  • The report notes that the American Academy of Pediatrics has long recommended passenger seat belts be installed on newly manufactured school buses. It further notes the risks, or challenges, of a student trying to unbuckle in the event of a crash.
  • Adding seat belts adds approximately six percent to the cost of a new school bus.

New Hampshire does not require drivers and adults to wear seat belts for passenger vehicles. State law does include a child restraint requirement for children under 18. The four exceptions are in taxis and buses, vehicles manufactured before 1968, under certain special education conditions, and when a child has physical conditions that prevent the use of seat belts or child safety seats.