Mississippi considers school bus seat belts - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Mississippi considers school bus seat belts

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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SOUTHAVEN, Miss. (FOX13) -

Mississippi lawmakers met Tuesday to consider a law having students buckle up on all school buses.

There are two sides to every argument, and in some cases it appears it boils down to what kind of situation or accident a school bus is involved in. There is also an argument out there that seat belts in school buses could make them more dangerous in certain situations.

In February of 2011, a Choctaw County, Miss., school bus was hit head on by a tractor trailer. Three people died - the truck driver, bus driver, and teacher on the bus -- and 17 students were injured. None of the students' injuries were life-threatening.

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One thought is, in wrecks like the one in February 2011, seat belts could make a difference. Another is that compartmentalization  in the bus is the reason the students walked away without major injuries.

"Compartmentalization is a big word for soft seat backs, higher, and enclosed a bit tighter, so the seat backs,if you want to get a bit more leg room you don't have that option," said John Caldwell, DeSoto County Schools Director of Transportation. "Part of the compartmentalization is the tightness."

Caldwell said he won't take a side on whether seat belts would increase safety on school buses, that could very well depend on the situation.

"Well if you have them all buckled in and it's a rollover, you probably want them to be buckled in," he said. "But if the bus goes off a ravine with water in it, or if there is a fire, maybe buckling in is not the best solution. You hate to say it depends, but it depends."
 
There is also concern about the time spent buckling and unbuckling children. One of the more dangerous times for students on school buses is when they are getting on the bus or getting off. The buckling and unbuckling may slow the pickup of students.

At this point, State Rep. Pat Nelson (R-Southaven) of DeSoto County doesn't see the bus seat belt talk getting very far.

"I have studied it a little bit and I am concerned about putting that many lap belts on small children," Rep. Nelson said. "What would happen in a fire or a wreck? Could one bus driver take the belts off of all these kids?"

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