Seat belts not a necessity on Kansas school buses

TOPEKA (KSNT) – This morning thousands of Kansas students headed to classes on a school bus however, unlike the other passengers on the road a majority of the bus riders weren’t buckled in.

Each summer the Kansas Highway Patrol inspects every school bus in the state for safety so KSNT News dug deeper.

“We’ll check the safety equipment, the lights, the emergency hatches, make sure the bus is able to pick up our children.” Said KHP Trooper Stephen LaRow

One thing they’re not checking for? Seat belts.

While it’s Kansas law to ‘click it’ that doesn’t apply when you’re a child on a bus.

“It’s very concerning to me, said parent Heather Wahlmeier, especially since they are the ones at most risk.”

But studies show that even without the added safety feature school buses are safe, very safe.

“They’re built for safety, they’re built frame-on. They’re set up a little bit higher, the way the seats are designed, when you get on the bus, they’re always really close together. If you ever wonder why your knees are up against the seat, that’s one of the reasons. Its actually built to hold you in, like an egg carton.”

To several districts seat belts aren’t cost-effective. The installation of seat belts would cost 8 to 15 thousand dollars more per bus while having little impact on safety.

But it’s more than just a money issue, if a bus were in an accident in some cases, it would actually be safer not to wear a seat belt.

“If a student needed to be unbuckled and wasn’t able to be unbuckled quickly enough if something was to happen, that would just take time to go row to row for seat belts to be undone.” Said Michael Lopez, transportation supervisor of Auburn-Washburn.

While parents may still have concerns with the lack of a seat belt, it’s something many districts say they don’t plan on changing unless it’s required.

National testing identifies school buses as the safest mode of ground transportation. School buses only account for one percent of student fatalities that occur while riding to and from school.

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