The Environmental Impact of School Bus Seatbelts

Safer and More Environmentally Friendly?

Safer and More Environmentally Friendly?

I have always wondered why school buses don’t have seatbelts. Not that I minded when I was riding them, since it was easier to wiggle around unrestrained. It was especially nice on field trips when you could lounge around, lie down, or face backwards, not like riding in a car at all!

Good Morning America did a piece on putting seatbelts on school buses, and it sounds like a logistical nightmare. Not that there should be a compromise for our children’s safety, but what exactly would the trip to school look like if they put seatbelts on every bus?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, School buses are one of the safest forms of transportation in the United States.  They claim that a 2002 report showed no safety increase with added seatbelts.

Adding seatbelts would be very expensive. Most districts would probably be forced to retire a school bus or two, and the result would be more cars on the road taking one or two kids to school at a time. What would be the environmental impact of this change?

According to the American School Bus Council, one school bus eliminates 36 cars. The average distance from home to school is 5 miles. If every school district (there are over 14,000) lost one bus due to budget challenges, that would mean 504,000 cars driving 20 extra miles a day. Since the average MPG is 20, that is 504,000 gallons of gas in a day.

One bus travels less than 70 miles per day. The MPG is 7, so that is 10 gallons of gas per bus per day. Those 14,000 buses would use 140,000 gallons of gas per day.

Would kids traveling in a car with their seatbelts on be safer? The NHTSA doesn’t think so. They say a school bus is seven times safer than a car. On average, five children die in school bus accidents per year.  How many die in cars on the way to school? Surely that number is not zero.

Do you think it’s worth it to require seatbelts on school buses, even if it means burning 364,000 more gallons of gas per day?


  1. While keeping children safe is a top priority, the overall costs of installing seatbeats in buses seems to be steep. Since school buses do have a good safety record, it seems like it is unnecessary to fix what isn’t broken.

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