Bus Accidents Attorneys In Queens

Controversy On Seat Belts In Buses

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that seat belts could reduce the risk of death in a bus rollover incident by as much as 77%.  If that is so, why aren’t these safety devices required by law in all passenger and school buses? The answer is that, depending on the type of bus crash involved, seat belts may do more harm than good. In other cases, it is difficult to be certain whether seat belts would have helped at all.

A Mixed Blessing?

During a rollover crash, passengers may be propelled out of their seats, ejected from the vehicle, and suffer injury or death by striking road surfaces.  Those not ejected may be tossed around the bus, striking other passengers or bus surfaces that are not designed to absorb impact energy.  Restraining passengers in their seats might go a long way toward reducing these types of impact injuries.  On the other hand, safety belts do little to reduce the threat of injury during partial ejection, where the lower part of the body remains trapped in the seat.  In addition, when a bus is lying on its side following a rollover, passengers restrained by seat belts may be hanging in hazardous, injury-causing positions and unable to free themselves.

When safety experts analyze specific bus accidents, it is not always easy to determine whether seat belts would have decreased the risk of injury for all passengers in all types of crashes.  In some kinds of collisions, for example, passengers may be seriously or fatally injured when parts of another vehicle ‘intrude’ into the bus.  Those passengers who are seated at the area of intrusion would not have benefitted from the use of seat belts.

In severe frontal crashes, seat belts in school buses may actually increase the risk of serious neck injury as well as possible abdominal injury.  Though passenger restraints may prevent injurious contact with bus surfaces and other passengers, they may also limit the motion of the pelvis relative to the upper body.  This causes a ‘whipping motion’ and concentrates high force in the head and neck area, creating a risk of serious injury. In side-impact collisions, passengers wearing shoulder harnesses may suffer head injuries when their upper torsos slide out of the restraints and their heads strike the seat cushions.

New Seat Belt Requirements

Despite the fact that seat belts have not been proven to reduce all types of bus accident injuries, lawmakers increasingly favor making them mandatory.  Six states—New York, New Jersey, Louisiana, Florida, California and Texas now require seat belts or some other form of restraint on all school buses.  No state currently requires the use of safety belts on coach buses, but that may change in the immediate future.  The recently introduced Motor Coach Safety Act would require seat belts, ejection-proof windows and roofs that can sustain the weight of rollovers in all coach buses.  As many as 80% of newly-built coach buses are now equipped with seat belts.

Seat belt requirements for coach and school buses are changing and state laws are not yet uniform.  This transition could create confusion as to what safety devices should have been required when a bus accident occurs.  If you or a loved one has been injured in a bus accident, the attorneys at the Orlow firm can give you a knowledgeable, up-to-date assessment of your possible remedies.