University of Alabama researchers, led by retired professor Dan Turner, have completed a three-year study assessing the safety value of putting seat belts in Alabama school buses. The study was mandated by Governor Riley in 2006 after a tragic bus accident in Huntsville took the lives of four Lee High School students.
The UA study found that taking the bus is the safest way for Alabama students to get to school, about 6-8 times safer than riding in a car with parents. Car accidents in Alabama are much more common than bus accidents, and buses are already safer because of their size and safety-conscious design.
Since 1977, there have been just five bus accident fatalities in Alabama, including the four students who died in the Huntsville bus accident. With more than seven thousand buses driving more than 450,000 miles every day in Alabama, five fatalities in 33 years is fairly few.
Seat Belts Not Cost-Effective, Researchers Say
Researchers speculate that putting seat belts in Alabama school buses would save just one life every eight years. Seat belts would bring a price tag of $11k-$15k per school bus, plus the need for larger seats, limiting the buses’ capacity.
Rather than spending millions of much-needed education dollars on seat belts, the UA researchers said that more accident deaths could be prevented by making it safer for students getting on and off the bus. More children have died getting off the bus, crossing the street, and pushing their way on the bus than have died for lack of a seat belt.
Education and highway safety officials outside of Alabama have been waiting for the results of this study on school bus seat belts since it began, hoping to use the results to determine seat belt policies in their own states.
To learn more about bus accidents and the legal options of bus accident victims in Alabama, please contact the personal injury attorneys of Long & Long