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Should school buses have seat belts?

An incident involving a car and a school bus sent 11 students to the hospital with minor injuries in Perry County earlier this week.

This, following a deadly crash in New Jersey just last week, prompting the question, "are school buses safe?"

“No, because there’s not even any seat belts for them,” said one Newport resident.

“All the other vehicles, you need to have the kids strapped in,” said another.

Right now, vehicles under 10,000 pounds are required to have seat belts.

A standard school bus exceeds that weight.

The National Transportation Safety Board has now recommended states adopt a measure to add seat belts to all school buses.

Fritzi Schreffler, a Safety Officer with PennDOT, says those safety benefits are clear, but the disadvantages aren’t as obvious.

“First of all, who is going to be responsible to make sure all those kids on the bus are belted? And whether or not they’re using it correctly. Because a lot of kids if they’re not big enough, they’re going to put the shoulder belt behind them or under their arm, and that can lead to significant injuries in the event of a crash,” said Schreffler.

She also mentions added costs for school districts, and pressure for bus drivers to make sure the seat belts are being used strictly for safety.

Because let’s face it, kids will be kids.

“Somebody could do something, somebody could say something, and another child in the spur of the moment, could swing it around and hit somebody in the head and not even think about what could happen when that buckle hits them,” said Wayne Campbell of Newport.

There is also concern about seat belts restraining children in the unlikely event the bus catches on fire.

And some question, is it necessary, when at the end of the day, officials say these crashes are rare?

“School buses are actually the safest form of travel for kids to get to and from school, it’s actually safer than riding in the family car,” said Schreffler.

Schreffler also explains to us that these buses are built like egg cartons, and besides the size acting as a safety feature, the cushioned high seats and tight seating arrangement also play a part in keeping children safe.