A tour bus carrying 65 family members crashed at 3AM when the driver fell asleep at the wheel. While everyone onboard was injured, there was one fatality when a 71 year old passenger was ejected from the bus.
The fact that she was ejected from the bus is not surprising, as buses, unlike airplanes, don’t have seatbelts. The issue centers around a concept known as "compartmentalization." Buses that weigh more than 10,000 pounds are built to offer "passive restraint" to riders: closely-spaced seats that protect passengers in the same way an egg carton protects its contents. Our firms experience in bus crashes shows compartmentalization doesn’t offer adequate protection in side impacts or rollovers, where passengers don’t get thrown forwards, but are ejected through the bus windows or thrown against the floor or ceiling. In fact seatbelts would help retain passengers in the "compartment", making buses even safer. Experts estimate seatbelts would cost about $1,000, or $15.15 a passenger for a 66 passenger bus. This works out to less than a nickle a day per passenger in the first year, far less than this over the life of a bus. In short it makes no sense not to have seatbelts on buses.
Many states now require school buses to have seatbelts. Early this month Texas enacted a law which would require all buses purchased on or after Sept. 1, 2010, to have seatbelts. While that doesn’t help folks today, it is a step in the right direction for Texas. If the bus you or your children are on are on does not have seatbelts what do you do?