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School bus safety needs review

By Staff | Feb 22, 2008

Despite the accident that killed four school children in Minnesota this week, officials are saying school buses are still safe.

We question whether that is really the case.

Since the 1960s, seat belts have been mandatory equipment in all motor vehicles — with the exception of school buses. One wonders why transportation officials are so concerned about everyone except the most helpless people in our society — our children.

Without exception, seat belts should be mandatory in all buses, whether they are used for schools, commuters, or cross-country travel.

When top school administrators earn well over $100,000 yearly, one questions why more expense is not put into keeping children safe. If seat belts were mandatory, and an aide were based on each school bus to ensure that children wore their seat belts and to help keep order on the bus, children would much safer.

We also question whether companies that contract with school districts for bussing children have the children’s interests at heart.

By definition, these companies are focused on profit. The cheaper they can transport children, the more money they make. Contract bussing companies would be among the last to consider making seat belt installation and use mandatory.

School districts would have a far greater interest in installing seat belts in school buses and enforcing their use. After all, a school values the life of each child since state aid is not paid for dead children — not for very long, anyway. So school districts have a vested interest in children’s safety for a very practical reason.

We hope after this week’s tragedy involving the bus carrying children from the Lakeview School in Cottonwood, Minn., puts up a red flag regarding the safety of our school buses. Schools should operate their own school buses because they’re more accountable to parents — not bussing companies for hire.

Hopefully, Iowa can learn from this tragic example too by making seat belts mandatory on every school bus that goes down the road.