My daughter is going on a field trip with her pre-school this month, and my wife is concerned about the fact that school buses don't generally have seat belts.

Does anybody know why school buses don't always have seat belts?

What makes a school bus safe, if there aren't seat belts?

Are there any studies or research comparing the safety of school buses with or without seat belts?

asked 12 May '10, 13:53

Chris%20W.%20Rea's gravatar image

Chris W. Rea
accept rate: 34%

Which type of vehicle will the trip be made in? Will the journey be a short city ride or will the be they travelling on the motorway/highway?

(14 May '10, 15:27) Emi

It'll be a regular (large) school bus, on the highway into the city.

(15 May '10, 03:11) Chris W. Rea

Thank you. I am not sure that giving you information about the regulations in my own country of residence will be very helpful to, but as a parent whose child (5 and a half) goes to pre-school with a service bus I can just suggest the following: Learn the child to teacher ratio, no belts means the children can get out of their seats, particularly if the journey is longish. I would also speak with the school and ask them to provide clear information about the buses, and the safety regulations they abide by.

(15 May '10, 08:57) Emi

The National Transportation Safety Board (in the US) says

Large school buses are heavier and distribute crash forces differently than do passenger cars and light trucks. Because of these differences, the crash forces experienced by occupants of buses are much less than that experienced by occupants of passenger cars, light trucks or vans. NHTSA decided that the best way to provide crash protection to passengers of large school buses is through a concept called “compartmentalization.” This requires that the interior of large buses provide occupant protection such that children are protected without the need to buckle-up. Through compartmentalization, occupant crash protection is provided by a protective envelope consisting of strong, closely-spaced seats that have energy-absorbing seat backs.

In another article on their site, the NHTSA says that in some cases, seat belts in buses can worsen injuries. However, my interpretation of the way they stated that is that generic seat belts in school buses may not be safer but restraint devices designed with school bus seating in mind still may be beneficial. In the first article I linked to, they do say "Over the past 30 years, some States have required new large school buses to come equipped with seat belts. There have been no documented injuries or fatalities resulting from use of the seat belts on school buses."


answered 12 May '10, 14:16

Kiesa's gravatar image

Kiesa ♦
accept rate: 26%


In Austria, seat belts on buses (not inner-city, only for extended travels) are required by law, but only recently (I think at most 5 years)

(12 May '10, 19:04) brandstaetter

From the Ontario Ministry of Transportation:

Why no seat belts?

Information from all types of school bus collisions demonstrates that the current school bus design provides a high level of protection to occupants and that seat belts may actually adversely affect the safety of children on school buses (Transport Canada).

Instead of requiring seat belts, school buses are designed and constructed differently from passenger cars. School buses protect passengers through "compartmentalization", a design that includes:

  • Seats with high backs;
  • Seats filled with energy-absorbing material;
  • Seats placed close together to form compartments;
  • Strong seat anchorages.

Studies have shown that adding seat belts to the current seating configuration of a school bus can increase the chance of head and neck injuries. For a seat belt to be effective, it must be worn correctly, snug and on the upper thighs. Because school vehicles carry passengers from the very young to high school students, if seat belts were used, they would need to be readjusted and their use monitored. A seat belt not worn correctly may cause serious injuries.

The Transport Canada article mentioned on that excerpt from the MTO site has further details, including full references.


answered 18 May '10, 02:31

dave0's gravatar image

accept rate: 12%

Also, think about how hard it is to keep a seat belt on a small child in a car, now have one adult trying to keep seat belts on 30 kids. If the belts are not connected and an accident does occur, the belt ends could become projectiles and cause a pretty bad injury in itself.


answered 18 May '10, 17:41

Andy%20H's gravatar image

Andy H
accept rate: 0%


Maybe if we had restraints like the ones on roller coasters, so once they sit down, it comes down and locks in place until the driver presses the release button.... ;)

(18 May '10, 19:18) Scott ♦♦

I'm sure a lot of bus drivers would gladly take them

(21 May '10, 17:31) Andy H
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Asked: 12 May '10, 13:53

Seen: 4,737 times

Last updated: 18 May '10, 17:41