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To seat belt or not to seat belt, that is the question

Two Texas high school students are dead. They were riding on a school bus that reportedly got run off an overpass by another driver earlier this week. Houston police say the bus careened over a guardrail to a street below. In addition to the two deaths, three other people on the bus suffered injuries.

Anytime an accident results in the death of a loved one there are many questions that arise and they all demand answers for the sake of proper accountability. In the wake of this particular tragedy, the focus of a great deal of the questions seems to be around the issue of seat belts.

Not all buses have belts, but according to officials the bus in this accident did have lap belts. It's not clear if they were being used, however. The district says seat belt use is not required. But for many observers that begs the question, is it time to make seat belts mandatory in buses just as they are in cars and trucks?

A history of the issue reflects that the matter is unresolved. Five years ago, the state legislature ordered school districts to make sure that seat belts were installed in new buses. Older buses were given a waiver on being retrofitted.

Experts say there are action has been slow. One is that it would be too costly to install belts in the older buses. Another is the matter of getting young people to use them and to do it properly.

Then there's the question of how much good they would do if they were used. Experts note that buses are already at least six times safer for transporting children by their very design, even without seat belts. And while one accident investigator says seat belts are always recommended, there's no way to guarantee that an accident won't result in injury or death.

Still, there is at least one lawmaker who says she is likely to introduce a measure to make sure belts get installed and are worn. She says seat belt use is something children learn early on and getting them to use them on buses should be doable.

What do you think?

Source: Houston Chronicle, "Bus crash reignites seat-belt debate," Ericka Mellon, Sept. 16, 2015

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