The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

State News

May 24, 2013

Crashes rekindle debate about seat belts on buses

(Continued)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. —

"I think the accident was a good testament to the engineering and safety of school buses. Our injuries for the type of accident that it was were minimal because of the designs of buses with padded seats and higher than what used to be backs of seats."

Three people injured in the accident spent the night in hospitals; two were drivers who were wearing seat belts, Edgington said.

Bartlett said the crash he recalls is from March 2012: Donasty Smith, 5, of Indianapolis died when bus driver Thomas Spencer II, 60, suffered a fatal heart attack and crashed into a concrete bridge pillar in Indianapolis.

House Transportation Committee Chairman Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, who worked for 11 years as vice president of safety for United Airlines, said the need for seat belts on school buses isn't supported by crash data.

He said studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Academy of Sciences and others show that riding on school buses without seat belts is safe. The NHTSA website says the best way to provide crash protection to passengers of large school buses is through "compartmentalization," which uses energy-absorbent, high seat backs and narrow spaces between each seat to protect children.

"One of the things that makes for good safety is doing good science," Soliday said. "I believe scientific method being applied before one mandates safety measures."

A report by NHTSA in 2002 found the addition of seat belts did not improve occupant protection for severe frontal impacts.

Soliday said he would support seat belts on school buses only if scientific studies showed it was worthwhile.

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