Saturday morning's tragic coach bus crash raises several questions, most important, how coach bus companies can - and must - assure that their drivers have thorough background checks, and are not impaired - whether through alcohol or simply being too tired - before they are allowed behind the wheel of a busload of passengers.

There is another troubling question that arises out of this tragedy: according to some eyewitnesses, the bus was apparently not equipped with safety belts.

Why? The answer may surprise you.

A 2002 study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded that on large buses, "lap belts appear to have little, if any, benefit in reducing serious-to-fatal injuries in severe frontal crashes. On the contrary, lap belts could increase the incidence of serious neck injuries and possibly abdominal injury among young passengers in severe frontal crashes."

As I'm sure you can imagine, money plays a significant factor in this equation as well, as the Congressional Research Service estimates that installing belts on school buses would add an additional $8,000 - $15,000 per bus.

I, for one, am unconvinced that the seat belts would increase the risk of injury over having no seat belt at all. I also think that the additional expense - even at the higher end of $15,000 - is money well-spent.

Jonathan Cooper
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Non-Compete, Trade Secret and School Negligence Lawyer
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