In May of 2018, a fifth grader and a middle school teacher were killed in a bus accident when the school bus that they were riding in struck a dump truck. At the time the accident occurred, the bus was carrying 38 students and seven adults. 43 of these riders were subsequently taken to a local hospital for treatment of injuries.
Seatbelt Laws in New Jersey
Each year, a number of unfortunate bus accidents like this occur. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that a dozen children die each year while riding the school bus. If your child has been injured or was killed in a school bus accident, do not hesitate to speak with a seasoned attorney.
The Importance of School Bus Seatbelts
This catastrophic accident and the general risk of school bus accidents have raised concerns about whether New Jersey’s current bus laws are sufficient. A current bill sponsored by a New Jersey legislature proposes that all new school buses in New Jersey be fitted with three-point seatbelts. The bill originated in 2013 after a deadly bus accident occurred in Chesterfield involving a young girl who was killed inside a school bus even though she was wearing a seatbelt. The bill has recently been receiving increased traction among New Jersey legislatures.
Not everyone, however, supports the creation of a law requiring three-point seat belts to be installed in all New Jersey school buses. Critics point out that this addition would cost approximately $10,000 per vehicle, which these opponents argue would make the addition prohibitively expensive.
What is a Three-Point Seatbelt?
Three-point seatbelts form a “Y” shape which includes a lap seat belt as well as a shoulder harness. These seat belts help to make sure that small children riding on school buses remain securely in their seats in the event that an accident occurs. A large number of school buses in New Jersey contain just lap belts, which are not as likely to keep children securely in their seats when accidents occur.
Federal versus New Jersey Seatbelt Laws
New Jersey is just one of seven states that require buses to have seat belts, but the state does not require that three-point seat belts be used. Other states like California and Nevada require that seat belts with shoulder harnesses be used on buses.
Federal regulations created by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration require all smaller-sized school buses constructed after 2011 to contain seat belts. Seatbelts are not required on large buses because these vehicles are designed to absorb the impact of collisions differently than smaller vehicles. As a result, buses over 10,000 pounds use high seatbacks as well as padding to protect children.
Contact a Skilled Accident Attorney Today
The legal counsel at Ferrara & Gable understands just how devastating school bus accidents can be. If your child is involved in a school bus accident, do not hesitate to contact our law office for an initial free consultation today.