The School Bus Mystery

Can anyone explain to me why if my kids are in my car they have to ride in a car seat but on a school bus they don’t require any restraint whatsoever? inside_school_bus

How in 2009 do we have school busses* without seat belts?

And why are we all okay with this?


Don’t get me wrong. In the fall I am putting my children on the bus with a wave and a smile. I am just puzzled by this disconnect.

* Spell check tells me that busses is not a word. What is the plural of bus?

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  1. Busii?? And, yeah, totally get ya on the seat belts.

  2. I think it’s “buses.”

    As for the other thing, it’s just a big leap of faith, isn’t it?

  3. It is nuts. “They” say that the seats are high enough to keep the kids from flying forward, but it’s hard not to think of all the “what-ifs.”

    The pp is right, I’m pretty sure it’s “buses.” English is a weird language.

  4. I’d heard that in case of an accident, if kids got trapped in seat belts the bus driver wouldn’t be able to help free everyone if they needed to evacuate the bus. Easier just to have them flop to the floor and drag the injured kids out.

  5. It’s buses, but “busses” is a word, too. It means “kisses.” I know this because I got it incorrect on a grammar test in journalism school & debated it hotly – with no success.

  6. I think that is totally weird. Although if they were strapped in, it would be so much harder for them to move about the bus tormenting their fellow travelers, so I guess it makes sense if you think about it that way.

    Where is the gun rack?

  7. I rode the bus for all of junior high & high school and it was about that time that the seatbelt laws came in around here. I wondered that at the time, but no one (media) seemed to be talking about it. It was like the elephant in the room that no one wanted to talk about.

    The more disturbing thing that I suspected was that in an accident, the seats would fold up like dominos. I guess the thinking is that a bus is way bigger than a car, so would win & so would the occupants. I guess.

  8. My son (who is in Kindergaten and rides the bus every day) has often asked me the same thing!

    Is it buses?

  9. I think once the kids are in they should fill the bus with packing peanuts.

  10. Wouldn’t buses be pronounced boo-sehs?

  11. Thank you. Because I just had this conversation the other day. And another thought: Why haven’t they made low-top buses? Don’t you think that is the wave of the future? Like Converse All-Star shorties?

  12. I was actually in a school bus accident as a teen. There were quite a few who were thrown from their seats and needed stiches for cuts!! No one was seriously hurt but this was just a simple rear ending…imagine if we had flipped or something!! I completely agree with you!!

  13. I’ve wondered this often; the same is true of public transportation, which is why we rarely use it.

  14. I wonder about that too, which is why i don’t let my kids ride them. Kidding – it’s because we live in CA and a school bus is a rare sighting indeed.

  15. A couple of years ago there was some kind of safety expert on Oprah and he went into this big long explanation about why there were no seat belts on school buses. I forget the details but the basic idea was that crash tests showed the seats are actually safer WITHOUT belts. It seems counter-intuitive though doesn’t it?

  16. I’ve never understood it, either.

  17. Seat belts are not required on school buses because the risks and costs far outweigh the potential benefits. This issue has been studied to death, and will continue to be, by vehicle safety experts. Some things to think about:
    1. School buses are big, spend lots of time not going real fast, and are driven by trained and good drivers. They don’t get into many crashes and when they do, they usually win the encounter. A school bus hitting a car head on does not decelerate the way a car would in the same crash.
    2. School bus seating is designed to contain and protect occupants without using belts.
    3. Belts have downsides. Evacuating a bus full of belted kids would be difficult. Improperly worn belts can cause severe abdominal injuries that are not immediately obvious. Who is going to make sure all kids on a bus are PROPERLY belted in?

    School buses are unique in that safety is a prime concern of manufacturers, regulators, operators and users. A lot of thought and money goes into making them safe and even though there is always room for improvement, those efforts pay off.

  18. Aprylsantics says:

    My mom was in an accident once and had she been wearing her seatbelt she would have been killed. I still wear one, though.

    I think buses should be padded and they should put airbags between the seats. Then, you wouldn’t have to worry about seatbelts.

  19. I always thought it was busses too. I swear it is, but spellcheck tells me it is buses.

    You bring up a valid point. Why don’t they have seat belts at least? Because the seats are so high?

  20. The preschool where my twins are has had a couple of field trips via the big yellow school bus. I chaperoned one last year and much to my surprise, they have seat belts. Lap belts instead of the shoulder belts, but seat belts nonetheless.

  21. Grammar Girl says that both “buses” and “busses” are acceptable. Yes, I am a nerd.

  22. We are all still alive yes? But weird nonetheless.

  23. I was always told, rightly or wrongly, that school buses didn’t have seat belts because the kids would use the buckle part as a weapon against each other.

    And I wanted to mention the comment made by another reader about how part of the justification is that most of the time buses are driven slowly. That is of course correct, but my experience for my child was a wee bit different. We lived in the Rockies, and the closest school was 45 minutes away on the highway. My husband was the fire chief in our area, who spent a great many of his days scraping people off that exact same highway. (sorry to be graphic, but it’s true.) We felt so strongly that we would never put our son in a bus without seatbelts for that kind of distance at those kinds of speeds, that we ended up relocating to the other side of the country before son hit kindergarten.

  24. Kathleen says:

    I’ve actually written some articles about this. The bus companies say it has to do with “compartmentalization.” If there’s an accident, the kids are supposed to hit the seats in front of them, and the buses are designed to take this kind of impact.

    These same companies don’t say what happens if the bus is hit from the side or rolls over.

    Also, schools say that it’s too hard to police kids to wear the seatbelts and, as some of your other readers have mentioned, there is (believe it or not) concern that kids will hit each other with the buckles.

    In our neighborhood, our school bus stops right near our house, but I drive my older son to school and I’ll drive Carter next year. But that has more to do with my control issues/paranoia than it does bus safety. Sort of.

  25. Kathleen says:

    Also, busses are kisses, yes? And buses are, well, buses.

  26. I am in Australia and our school buses have seatbelts. But I still drive my 3 kids to school. Funny that.

  27. been asking that question forever. By forever, I mean since my kids were small, but back then I was radical (according to my mother in law) for putting them in car seats.

  28. The plural of bus is bus. It’s like deer, moose and archaeopteryx.

  29. I know it’s not busses, which, as noted earlier, means kisses. How do I know? Because I am a language dork AND my school system has BUSSES spray painted in the bus area at each and every school, and every time I see it, it makes me want to punch people.

    Thank god school is over in 2 days.

    And I have no idea why kids can careen around like popcorn on a giant bus. My kid has slid off of more than one bus seat. Safety first, right?

  30. Several years ago, my younger brother broke his nose when the bus driver slammed on his breaks. Bus driver decided that was the best way to get kids to behave. My brother broke his nose, another kid broke his arm, and a couple of kids ended up with stiches. Bus driver didn’t even get reprimanded!

  31. I dunno, but I’m learning a lot from the comments on here. My son has ridden the school bus for two years and has been very safe…I think I will worry more when they start going on field trips on highways.

  32. Remember when we were 7 & worried about REAL mysteries on the school bus?

  33. It never ceases to stop disturbing me, seeing kids on school buses without seatbelts. (It also disturbs me seeing signs about “Busses” when that means “kisses.” “Buses” is the plural of bus. However, it doesn’t disturb me as much as the former.)

  34. I’ve always wondered that. And in response to the person who said that school buses (?) travel slowly: in high school we were bussed/bused to our volleyball and softball games and tournaments and we traveled on the freeway…so we weren’t going slowly, but we were unrestrained passengers. And what about field trips?! SAFE!

  35. It doesn’t make any sense to me, either. Apparently Washington state is starting to phase in seatbelt-equipped buses. According to my aunt, the problem with the belt-ready buses is that the seat back are so high she can’t see the kids. So now I’m not sure which side of the issue I’m on. Do I want my daughter more protected in the highly unlikely event of an accident (especially in my district) or do I want her to be supervised by the bus driver? It seems like a catch-22 to me.

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