I am a retired school bus driver with more than 10 years of experience in Duluth. I wanted to respond to the News Tribune's March 5 editorial in favor of adding seat belts to school buses (Our View: "Seat belts on buses an idea that clicks").
Over the years, I have heard the question many times: Why don't school buses have seat belts? There are many good reasons they don't.
School buses are very safe. The seats used in school buses are very well padded with high backs, ensuring that if there was an accident and the students were jostled they would not be severely injured.
With students strapped in with seat belts, if there was an accident, how could the driver help the students unbuckle those seat belts in a timely manner? With more than 50 students on a bus sometimes, it would be very difficult to accomplish this unbuckling - and that's assuming the driver isn't injured and is able to try.
Additionally, how could a driver see that all students were actually wearing the belts? A buzzer system similar to an automobile could be used, but with up to 50 students on a bus, how could the driver check each student to be sure they were indeed wearing their seat belts?
Currently, the only way a driver could enforce the use of seat belts would be to stop the bus and proceed only when students were in compliance with the rules. It would not take too long for the students to realize this would take time and would delay their arrival at school. This of course would not be a good situation.
Seat belts themselves present a safety issue. The current design of belts presents a problem with misbehaving students who might use the ends of the seat belts as a weapon to strike other students.
Special-needs buses are smaller with fewer students. Currently, seat belts are used on these buses with an assistant on the bus to monitor the correct use of the belts.
The safety of all students should be and is a concern for all school-bused students The National Transportation Safety Board has considered the seat belt problem for years. I surely think the cost of seat belts is not the only consideration. Another concern would be the possibility of additional staffing on buses to ensure compliance of seat-belt regulations.
Until new regulations are implemented, I think that the current system of bus safety is sufficient.
Gerald Asperheim of Duluth is a retired school bus driver.