LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - Fastening a seat belt when getting into a vehicle is a simple concept that can save a life. It becomes a bit more complex when we talk about seat belts on school buses. So News 18 is asking, why don't all school buses have seat belts?
Some say seat belts could actually be more problematic during a crash. Then others argue it would be too expensive to install seat belts in every bus.
In a special series, News 18 explores if children riding school buses are as safe as they possibly can be.
CATCH UP | A SAFER RIDE, PART 1
It is believed seat belts on a special needs school bus are why injuries from a May rollover crash weren't more serious. The question is easy: Why aren't there seat belts in every school bus?
Some say seat belt restraints could actually be more dangerous.
"There are studies that show that children could panic. If a fire breaks out or there's smoke, that perhaps they can't get the seat belt off," said State Senator Ron Alting (R-22).
Then there's the argument that school buses are already safe because of they way they're designed and built.
"Kids have a got a little bit better chance of survival, definitely, and less injuries that way by having the bus up off the ground like that," said Sgt. Kim Riley with Indiana State Police (ISP).
Another reason, according to Lafayette School Corporation (LSC) Superintendent Les Huddle, is money.
"You don't want to put students' safety underneath the dollar, but it is a reality," said Huddle.
Huddle said installing seat belts in all of LSC's buses would take away from somewhere else, like staffing.
In 2009, News 18 reported Tippecanoe School Corporation paid between $10,000 and $40,000 to have seat belts installed on buses.
If it costs, at a minimum, $10,000 per bus to install seat belts in LSC's 116 buses, the corporation would be looking at an estimated $1.2 million. That could fund roughly 23 teacher salaries.
Cost is something lawmakers have looked at before. This spring's crash has some thinking the issue will be brought up again.
"It will be a topic of discussion in the next (Indiana) General Assembly. I've had several constituents come up to me and ask if we would be looking at seat belts," said State Representative Sheila Klinker (D-27).
Others said it might come up, but believe the research speaks for itself.
"I'm sure that a seat belt helps and I certainly believe in our seat belt law in automobiles, but there's a huge argument that it just doesn't quite apply in school buses, at least the standard size school bus," said Alting.
Seat belts or no seat belts, bus safety is not something Indiana State Police takes lightly. State police launched a public website at the beginning of the month to show school bus inspection records.
"We actually do bus inspections every year on all schools buses, at least once a year, and any bus that's over 12 years old, they do it twice a year," said Riley.
State police troopers are working on bus inspections right now. They hope to have their annual inspections done in the Lafayette district by the start of school in August. To see inspection records of your child's bus, click here .
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