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Fatal bus plunge prompts renewed debate on requiring seat belts

Seat belts are required in cars and trucks. Individuals in San Antonio caught driving or riding in vehicles without buckling up can face fines under Texas law. If they have passengers with them, they have to be properly restrained as well.

That is not the case when it comes to school buses. In the minds of many observers that just seems to run contrary to logic. After all, seat belts save lives and so it would follow that young people being bused to school should be strapped in for the sake of their well-being.

This particular question of safety has been thrust back into the limelight in the wake of a recent deadly accident in Houston. Officials report that high school students were killed and three other people were injured when another vehicle sideswiped a school district bus. The bus was on an overpass and the force of the collision apparently pushed the bus over a guardrail and down to the road below.

As it happens, the bus in the recent Houston accident apparently had lap belts. Not all of them do. In 2010, the state made it a requirement for buses purchased after September of that year to have belts, but only if the state paid for them. But as the Gainesville Register reports, there hasn't been any funding for belts since 2011, and there is no school district policy that requires that they be used when they are present.

There are some who say they may not be needed. One Alabama researcher looked into the issue after a 2006 crash that killed four bus riders in that state. What he found was that buses are by design the safest vehicles for transporting students. Their large padded seats create a form of compartmentalization that protects students. Though the researcher says belts might improve that safety a bit.

Whether the time has come for a change is something that state and city officials will have to decide. What those experienced in personal injury law know is that when someone is killed due to negligence or product defect, taking action after the fact is often the only means for victims to seek compensation. And that can be done in consultation with experienced legal counsel.

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