My wife and I thoroughly trained our oldest daughter on seat belt safety, and it got to the point where she would scream at the top of her lungs if one of us didn't buckle our belts. When she first stepped foot on a school bus, she was terrified to learn that there were no seat belts and didn't understand how school buses were the exception to the seat belt rule. After many years of extensive study, however, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is changing that, at least for buses weighing under 10,000 lbs. The NHTSA's findings are the same as a 2002 study that smaller buses should receive belts and seat backs should be raised to 24 inches, but nothing was done about the findings back then. A series of bus crashes since has helped build the case to finally require the seat belts on certain buses and taller seat backs for them all.
Part of the reason for inaction was that adding seat belts would decrease seating capacity by 17% while also adding $40-$50 per seat to bus costs. With 25 million children riding 500,000 buses, that adds up to $100 million in annual costs that would, according to reports, save roughly one life per year. Statistics show that about 5 children die each year in school bus accidents, which represents .1 deaths per 100 million miles traveled. Kids that travel by bike to school die at a far greater rate of 12.2 per 100 million miles traveled, and kids who walk to school die at a rate of 8.7 per 100 million. The NHTSA's ruling goes into effect November 2011, which is five months before my oldest daughter rides the bus for the last time and gets into her own car.
[Source: Detroit News, photo by gareth_lofthouse | CC 2.0]