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Joplin Schools Transportation Director Weighs in on NHTSA Push f - KOAM TV 7

Joplin Schools Transportation Director Weighs in on NHTSA Push for Seat Belts on Buses

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JOPLIN, MISSOURI -

It's no secret that seat belts save lives. But when it comes to school buses it's far from a no brainer.

Joplin taxi driver Christopher James says "It's just a safety issue. I'm just surprised that school buses don't automatically have seatbelts. I think it's a great idea.”

"Overall I don't think so, a lot of the design work that has gone in to seat belts at this time has been designed to incorporate no seat belts, so there's a lot of safety features already built into the buses,” says Joplin resident Kevin Gray.

He's right. Joplin Schools Transportation Director David Petit says school buses are eight times as safe for kids going to school than riding along in a car.

Petit says "Buses are built; they're built like tanks with a lot of safety features in mind. And compartmentalization, which is the student within the confines of the seat even without seat belts keeps them safe."

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about 450 children die a year in personal vehicles on their way riding to and from school, compared to only four in buses. Currently seat belts are only mandated in six states.

"'I have a severely autistic twin so if they're in a car crash. I would want my twin to be in a car crash so they wouldn't get hurt. If they're gonna stop real quick he's gonna fly forward and the benches are like metal or wood so your head's gonna hit that,” says Joplin High School student Michael Wenthe.

"It's not just about safety, it's about price. The Joplin School District currently has 88 buses in its fleet. It's looking to purchase four more. Seatbelts would add $11,000 per bus."

Petit says “I think if either a federal recommendation or a federal rule comes down. I think you will probably see the price of seat belts come down, with them being mandatory."

He says the best argument for seat belts is in rollover or side impact accidents, but more often than not they happen in the rear of the bus. The NHTSA says it will be studying those six states who do have seat belt laws to come up with more data on their benefits in buses.

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