Do seat belts make school buses safer?

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A school bus crashed onto its side in Kansas City Thursday and several of the students were knocked out of their seats. No one was seriously injured, but that did not stop some parents and grandparents from questioning the safety of buses.

"Buses need seat belts -- they really do," Chesna Henderson, a grandmother of one of the students, said. "He flew from one side to the other side."

Darlene Davis is the Kansas City Metro training center manager with First Student. She said because of the egg carton design, a bus seat is actually one of the safest places a child can be when riding to school.

"If they are sitting down in their seats and have their knees and feet in front of them, then they are protected by the seat in front of them," Davis said.

Because seats are designed to be taller, with thicker padding, it is better for a child to hit the seat in front of them than to be strapped in one spot.

"If there was an emergency, you have a driver and a bus load of students," Davis said. "If everyone's in a seat belt, and now they're all damaged at the waistline, and their interior cavity, how are you going to get them out in a timely manner?"

Plus, thanks to a roof that's much stronger, if a bus were to flip on its top, the roof would not cave in. 

That makes it much easier for students to make their way out of several emergency exits that are now mandatory on buses.

"They can go out windows on the side. They can go out roof hatches and the emergency exit out the back door," Davis said.

Because a bus sits at a much higher level than most cars, in most cases, a car crashing into the side of the bus will not affect students, who are purposely sitting higher off the ground.

"If the bus was hit down in (the bottom portion of the side), the students would not be impacted," Davis said.

According to First Student, school buses are 13 times safer than riding in another vehicle, and are 10 times safer than walking to school.

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