Why are there no seat belts on school buses? – The Fifth Estate


[ ♪♪ ] [loud crash] Bob McKeown:It is the
nightmare scenario.
A runaway tractor-trailer.A stalled school bus
full of unsuspecting kids.
A brutal collision.Fortunately, this
is only a test.
A seat belt crash test.Notice that crash test dummies
in seat belts stay in the bus.
An unbelted dummy
is violently ejected.
Indeed, it’s what does happen
far too often in real life.
And it happened here in
2008, in rural Alberta,
when a gravel truck crashed
into a school bus in the fog.
That morning was
very, very foggy. You couldn’t see
the power poles. Bob:Donna Noble’s
daughter Jenny was 17,
in her final year
of high school,
looking forward to
her prom, then college.
So, I put her on
the bus that morning, and I was working at
the fire hall then, and I got to the fire hall,
and the fire chief said, “There’s been a
school bus accident”. And I looked at him and I
said, “It’s Jenny’s bus.” And he said,
“We don’t know that.” And I said, “I do.” Bob:And Donna was right.It was her daughter’s bus.Jenny was ejected from the
rear seat and hurled onto the
pavement by the collisionwith no seat belt
to keep her inside.
I would have thought that it
would have become standard on any motor vehicle on
a road, plain and simple. Bob:Every day in Canada,
40,000 school buses transport
about two million
kids to school.
-Good morning.
-Good morning.Good morning.Bob:On most of them,
as on this ride recently to
Holy Trinity Elementary
School in Toronto,
there are no seat belts and
these kids wonder why.
Reporter:What do you think?Should there be seat
belts on school buses or not?
There should.Yeah? And why should
there be seat belts,
what do you think?Because some people
can fall like, over here. If there’s an accident then
we could get really hurt. Maybe the bus flips over,
and go on to the roof, but seat belts would
kind of stop that problem. Bob:They say
that school buses
are one of the safest
forms of transportation.
But even with a
low accident rate,
over the past two decades
in Canada, there have been tens
of thousands of school bus
collisions causing thousands
of injuries and
a number of deaths.
Many of which could
have been prevented.
If you get into an accident,
you would stay in your spot because a seat belt
makes you safe. Actually, a minute ago
I almost fell off the seat. This influenced my
decision even more. Bob:The question on
every Canadian parent’s
mind, why aren’t there
seat belts on Canada’s
school buses?The answer to that has to
come from Transport Canada. The federal vehicle
safety regulator. For 40 years, they’ve been
telling us to buckle up our kids in cars,
but school buses? Apparently that’s
a different story. To this day Transport Canada
insists seat belts on school buses simply aren’t
necessary, that they won’t make kids safer, that they
might accidents even worse. Now, you might well ask
how is that possible? Lights. Cameras. Bob:It happened
like this and it goes
back to a Transport Canada
crash test in 1984.
It was a major production.They even did a movie of it
with the national film board.
Woman:The final checks.Camera’s loaded.Dummies in position.Bob:Buses with dummies were
driven head-on into a wall,
accompanied by ominous music.According to Transport Canada,
a seating system called
compartmentalization is used in
school buses to keep children
safe without seat
belts in an accident.
Woman:The high
back padded seats
absorb the energy
of the impact.
Bob:And Transport Canada
claims that lap seat belts
could actually injure kids,
by creating a whiplash effect
in a head-on collision.Woman:Enough to be fatal or
result in serious injury.
Bob:It became what American
officials called
the most widely cited
crash test of its time,
trumpeted by bus
manufacturers,
and school boards
across North America.
The message,
simple and reassuring.
Without seat belts,
school buses remain the safest
form of transportation.And that anti-seatbelt
mantra has been echoed
for years by politicians,
premiers, bureaucrats.
I am not in favour of seat
belts in school buses with the information I have today. It’s in fact safer for children
not to have safety belts. The seat in which he finds
himself is designed so that he has protection. Bob:And groups like
the Canada Safety Council
have gone along
with that too.
According to the
safety watchdog’s website…
“there is no
scientific evidence
that seat belts save lives on
school buses.”
The design of school buses makes
them exactly in that sphere where seat belts are not helpful
and in some cases can actively be harmful. Bob:Lewis Smith is the
Safety Council’s Manager
of National Projects.The shock absorbent material
absorbs most of the blow and the injuries are
kept to a minimum. And that’s based
upon what evidence? That’s based upon
Transport Canada. You’re talking about
Transport Canada’s 1984 test and others?
-Correct, yes. Bob:And that 1984
study is a big reason
why tens of millions of kids
all across North America
ride beltless to
school each day.
But aFifth Estateinvestigation
has uncovered serious problems with Transport Canada’s research
and found new details about what the government has known about
school buses and seat belts and safety, but has kept
secret from Canadians. [ ♪♪ ] Bob:Since that 1984 study,
there have been at least
two dozen school bus
deaths across Canada.
More than a hundred in the USAnd school bus injuries in
both countries totalling more
than 140,000.From Dunrobin Ontario in
1999, to Regina in 2006…
..to Cape Breton in 2016.And the horrific physics of
those crashes are visible here.
Real life school bus
surveillance footage.
From Ohio in 2003…..and Missouri in 2014.Watching this, it seems
counter-intuitive but
Transport Canada claims
not only would seat belts
not protect children,they might lead
to even more injuries.
It’s frustrating– Bob:Just don’t try telling
that to someone who’s lived
through a crash
like one of those.
I think it’s common sense
that seat belts save lives. Bob:It was just
over a decade ago
outside Beaumont, Texas.Like many school districts,
they thought here that
Transport Canada’s study was
all you needed to know about
surviving school bus crashes.That would change.Bob:That is one
happy looking group.
[ Laughter ] Sara:Oh yeah,
we had a great time.
We were crazy and fun
and we were good at soccer too, yeah. Bob:Then came
the spring of 2006.
16-year-old Sara Beach and her
high school soccer teammates
were headed to a playoff
game in Houston when
their bus lost control on
a rain-slicked highway.
And then the next thing
I knew, I was lying on the side of the road. [ Sirens Wail ] Sara:It was just pure shock.Like a war had gone on. You know, people walking around
covered in blood and just chaos. Bob:Sarah and
19 others were injured.
She had a serious head injury
and her body was scraped to the
bone by the highway,
the scars a constant reminder
of what happened.Sara:I think it’s very clear
because of how the bus
fell on its side,how we were toppled
on top of each other,
how I was dragged across the
asphalt, that if we had been strapped into our seats it would
be a completely different story. Bob:It might be different
too for Sarah’s best friend
Ashley Brown
who died that day,
and her teammate Allison
Foreman who was badly hurt.
Everybody’s thrown out
of the bus because there’s no seat belts. Bob:Ashley
and Allison’s fathers
are Steve Forman
and Brad Brown.
No one left that bus
without some injury or death. My daughter died in that crash. She was ejected from her
seat and was killed instantly. Our daughters were
thrown out of the bus, ejected from their seats because
there were no seat belts, and that sort of propelled us
into learning all about student transportation and
bus transportation. Bob:The two dads would
spend the next decade battling
to get seat belts into buses.And it wasn’t longbefore they discovered
something unexpected.
An informal alliance of bus
companies and school boards,
groups strongly
opposed to seat belts.
We became disgusted frankly
with the school bus industry. When you get into this, you see
that the government agencies pick and choose what
they want to listen to, what statistics they want to
pull from and frankly you know, we finally got to the point
where it’s follow the money. Bob:Surprisingly,
as far back as 40 years ago,
Transport Canada actually
planned to require seat belts
in Canadian school buses.But when the school
bus industry heard that,
they lobbied against it, hard,
with what were called adverse
representations to
Transport Canada.
Their main complaint,
the cost benefit ratio.
In other words, would the
injuries and deaths prevented,
be worth the price?The government
promptly backed down.
There would be no seat
belts on school buses
in Canada after all.Steve and Brad say the stated
reasons for no school bus
seat belts were an
affront to the facts.
Children can’t unbuckle. Children can’t
buckle and unbuckle. Children will use
lap belts as weapons. All sorts of arguments
and if I’ve heard it a thousand times, they will
tell you that a school bus is like an egg crate with
the children as eggs nestled in their seats and
all of this padding in the seat
in front of them. And my argument was always and
what happens when you turn the egg crate over? Or what happens if you
shake an egg crate without a top and all the eggs
go flying out, right? Bob:Number one on
Brad and Steve’s list.
That Transport Canada
crash test of 1984.
We’re tired of
the misinformation. Bob:It turns out the
Canadians didn’t test
the most dangerous crashes–
side impacts and rollovers.
They didn’t test
three-point seat belts,
proven to prevent
injuries in cars.
And that film left out some
stunning information.
Transport Canada had already
learned that in a previous
study, of seven children who
died in school bus crashes,
six would’ve survived if
they’d worn a seat belt.
But there’s not a word in the
crash test promotional film
about that.So they were rigged,
you believe? Oh yeah, absolutely. The facts don’t lie. If you allow the facts
to speak for themselves, then the conclusion is
what every parent knows, seat belt saves lives. [ ♪♪ ] Bob:If Transport Canada
is on the front lines of
the campaign against
school bus seat belts,
this product evaluation centre
in Indiana is ground zero
in the battle for them.This is where we keep our
anthropomorphic test devices,
better known as crash dummies.Bob:Oh my.So this is it,
this is the lab. This is eerie. Bob: Mmm-hmm. Do you ever expect one
of them to say something to you when you come in here? -Ouch.
Bob: Ha, yeah. Bob:James Johnson is an
executive with IMMI,
the company which runs this–
one of the largest crash test
sites in the world.For years here, they’ve
manufactured 3-point seat belts
for school buses.And tested them here–
in dangerous situations.
Repeatedly, crash test dummies
in seat belts stay in place.
The unbelted go flying.[ ♪♪ ]Compartmentalization does
the best it can…it’s just
not good enough.
-So, IMMI designed a school bus
seating system combining
3-point lap and shoulder belts
with the high-backed
padded seats
called compartmentalization.Well, compartmentalization does
nothing for you in side impacts or roll overs. So those are the type
of accidents, unfortunately, where tragedy strikes
and you have children injured and killed.
And that’s where a lap and shoulder belt will make
a big difference, Bob. Bob:That message is now
becoming a reality in places
like Austin, Texas.Well it’s obvious, we’ve
come to the right place. [chuckling]
This is the bus depot of the Austin, Texas
Independent school district. To me it’s about what additional
safety feature you are giving to the students and to the parents. Bob:Kris Hafezizadeh
oversees a fleet of 500 buses
carrying 23,000 students
a day– all belted in.
So, as we stand here now,
all new buses have the three point belt.
-Right. Bob: Can you show me
what that looks like? Sure.
-Being Canadian, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a school
bus with seat belts of any kind. Oh wow.
Okay, well, welcome to Austin. We have them here. So this is our bus that is four
years old and I want to show you what we got on here. Bob: And how much do all
those new seat belts cost? The consensus we’ve found is
that it works out to about $25 per year per child. It does add about 7 to 10,000
to the cost of a bus when you purchase one. Here’s my part on that. At what point you’re gonna
put value of money in the same equation as
safety of a child? Bob:When we come back,
what else Transport Canada
has known about seat belts
and school buses that
it’s not telling us.I’ve looked for these results
on the website and I, are they there?
I haven’t been able to find them.
-I don’t believe so, nope. They’re not there? Bob: Was this ever
released publicly? Not that I’m aware of. [ ♪♪ ] [ Muffled Radio Communication ] Bob:It is before sunrise
and across the continent,
school bus fleets are
starting their day.
Hundreds of thousands of buses
carrying tens of millions of
students from kindergarten
to high school.
Driver Tom Lehren is
about to hit the road
for his morning run in
Lake Travis, Texas.
I drive about 85
miles every day. Bob:Increasingly,
U.S. school districts
like this one have been
installing 3-point lap
and shoulder belts in
their new school buses.
Good morning, little Anne. You look nice today. Bob:And if you think young
school bus passengers can’t or
won’t put their seat belts on
and keep them on, think again.
Meet third graders
Zoe and Lainey.
Did your parents tell you
to do that or your teachers,
who tells you to put on your…The bus driver tells us. Bob:What would happen ifyou didn’t wear your
seat belts, guys?
We could get hurt.
‘ Cause we could flip over, like, because of a big
rock and we can fall and break our necks. [ ♪♪ ] [ Simultaneous Chatter ] Bob:And it seems universal.In Canada we
heard the same thing.
Kids who don’t have
seat belts want them.
It’s safer if you put on seat
belts for the younger kids and for us too. Put seat belts on school buses. Bob:So you would like
seat belts on school buses?
Uh-huh. Bob:Yet here in Etobicoke,
Ontario and across the country,
officially, Transport Canada
insists they’re not needed.
I always wanted to know
why there’s no seat belts on school buses. Bob:That question has been
asked by parents and children
for decades since the now
infamous Transport Canada study
that said seat belts
could be dangerous.
[ ♪♪ ]And in Rimbey, Alberta in 2008,
an accident so horrifying
it put seat belts
under scrutiny again.
Three local teenagers were
ejected from their school bus
after it was hit
by a gravel truck.
Sitting in the last row,
seventeen-year-old Jenny Noble
was thrown from
the bus and killed.
Her mother Donna drives by the
crash site almost every day.
My first words to
the doctor were, “Did she suffer?” And they said, “No,
she died instantly.” Bob:Then fourteen,
Keenan Clark was ejected
from the seat
in front of Jenny.
The pylon, I guess, there is
kind of where I was sitting.
They have it flagged there…Bob:He had head
trauma, broken ribs,
fractured vertebrae and more.If seat belts would’ve
been on the bus, Jenny probably would’ve
stayed on the bus. Everything that had happened
to me happened after I fell out of the bus.
So I think that if there’d have been a seat belt holding me in
the bus, that’d been fabulous. Bob:In Alberta, the
accident triggered a provincial
review into school bus
safety and there was
brief hope for
mandatory seat belts.
But then Transport Canada’s
position was considered,
that seat belts
may put students
at greater risk of injury,and once again the call
for seat belts fell silent.
Since that accident
a decade ago,
school bus injuries in
Canada have kept climbing. And Transport Canada’s isolation
in its anti-seat belt stance has kept increasing too. But south of the border the
major safety organizations, the national transportation
safety board, the national safety council,
the head of the national highway traffic safety administration,
are virtually unanimous. School bus seat belts
prevent injuries and save lives.Yet, if you visit Transport
Canada’s website today,
it still insists that there is
no evidence that seat belts
would make kids safer.There’s been a lot of work done. Bob:Suzanne Tylko runs
Transport Canada’s
Testing Facility.In the US, the NTSB,
The National Safety Council,
states which account for
about half of the U.S. population, all have mandatory
school bus seat belt policies. They have their policies
with their policy makers. It’s what works for them. Bob: But isn’t that the
point, that it was thirty-five years ago, and to this day,
effectively, if you look at Transport Canada’s website,
it’s the same policy. Might not make things better,
might make things worse– -Well–
-Bob: No scientific evidence. Again, coming from the
point of view of a researcher, I can tell you that,
because I don’t do, I don’t write the policy
and I’m not part of that. Bob:If that sounds like a
lukewarm endorsement of the
no seat belts policy,
there might be a reason.
Eight years ago, Suzanne Tylko
herself conducted another study
for Transport Canada.She concluded the existing
seat padding on school buses
is not effective
in side impacts,
and does not do enough
to “reduce or eliminate
the serious injuries.”In other words, it’s the
opposite of what they’ve
long insisted.But that study was kept
quiet until we asked for it.
Bob: In 2010 you
were the lead on a study for Transport Canada.
-That’s correct. Bob: What was
the conclusion? Well, the conclusion
was, with the seat belts, that the seat belts
do prevent ejection. Bob: Which showed that
compartmentalization was not adequate. In side impact and
in roll-overs, yes. Bob: I’ve looked for these
results on the website and I– are they there?
I haven’t been able to find them?
-I don’t believe so, nope, they’re not there? Bob: Was this ever
released publicly? Not that I’m aware of. Bob: This is
Transport Canada.Even Lewis Smith of the Canada
Safety Council admits
he had no idea
such a report exists.
As a safety advocate, I firmly
believe that anything that advances the cause of
safety should be made public. Bob: Well if that 2010
report by Transport Canada came to the conclusion that
compartmentalization alone wasn’t adequate, and
those were the words. It’s troubling.It’s very concerning.I would absolutely like to see
the evidence behind it and that could very well
change our position. Bob:And then the headof Transport Canada’s
test facility
said something no one there has
ever publicly admitted before.
Bringing in the seat belts
is a good first step. Bob: You are saying
that in your eyes, seat belts in school buses
should be done, should be undertaken? It’s a, it’s a, it’s a
good first step. Bob: You say it’s a
good first step. Is not a good first
step better than nothing? Why doesn’t that qualify as
reason to put them mandatorily in school buses? Well, again.
I can’t speak to that. You would have to ask people
who decide those policies, because I can’t answer that. I can’t answer that. [ ♪♪ ] Bob:It’s the question
at the heart of this
passionate fight
in Canada.
Especially for people like
Donna Noble who know too well
what’s at stake.Is it cost?
I don’t know. But what’s the cost of a life? What’s a life worth? Bob:For 34 years and
counting, Transport Canada
has vehemently rejected seat
belts on school buses.
The admission in our
on-camera interview is
a shocking reversal.And it raises the question,
why did all those injuries and
deaths that seat belts
might have prevented,
like Jenny Noble’s,
have to happen?
Love ya, Jenny. Miss you, kiddo. Miss ya. Bob:Last month in Innisfil,
Ontario, there was another
school bus crash.Two students
suffered broken bones.
Another was airlifted to
hospital with a neck injury.
There were, of course,
no seat belts on the bus.
[ ♪♪ ]

100 comments

The school busses in the us don’t have seat belts and no ac..especially in the south. 90 degrees at the end of the year….

My school bus has seatbelts around our waists but hit our chests and I think that they need car belts

I thought it was just bc if there was a fire or accident and you had to get out quickly it is quicker to get off without one

I’m from the U.S and we have seatbelts on buses but know one uses them, keep in mind that I’m in the suburbs so accidents are not as common, we are forced to wear the seatbelts if we are on a field-trip that is somewhere in a more urban area

But with seatbelts notice how the dummies fling against the seatbelt so it might crush the wind pipe of a small child

This made me so angry. Are those people stupid, do they live under the rock and dont see all the crashes and how they can be prevented OR all they think about i how to put more MONEY in their pockets. And i bet people like that do not have kids cuz if the did the would know what it means to get your child killed or injured… And then they are like " Oh we care about our kids " ohhhhhhhhhh im mad af

Our school buses did have seat belts, and the driver even checked before driving (for elementary school students) but as soon as we started going, everyone took them off. It's plain and simple, yes they would be more effective, I am not arguing that. It's rather the cost and actual usage of the belts on the buses. From personal experience, the only time they were ever actually used was to hit someone you were mad at.

Canadas test is a joke. Totally controlled and a perfect head-on collision. Seatbelts absolutely are the way to go

Some states do have seatbelts on school buses New Jersey schools do have them Pennsylvania doesn't have them

My sis was on a bus that none seats had no seatbelt when we when on a field trip and I was on on a different bus and had seatbelts and u was worried about her bus she was fine

Ok this is getting me scared bc who was driving the other car truck thing and I’m just going to watch Danny Gonzalez

Silly. Not science.

I am not claiming that school buses should not have three-point belts for the kids riding them. I would support legislation for that today.

I say only that asking the company that makes the things for their opinion, rather than a truly independent laboratory, is a specious exercise. Asking a group of children for their opinions is just laughable. Asking any number of survivors, or the well-intentioned parents of victims, does not provide scientific evidence.

Poor journalism, not evidence.

The reason there are no seatbelts is because they can't keep enough seatbelt cutters to free the kids. The ones they keep on the buses for the drivers can only cut 4 seatbelts. How are drivers supposed to choose what kids to save? They can't, so they have no seatbelts.

I am a canadian kid and listening to this is just sad. Me as a kid would rather get injured than literally die I still dont understand.

All i keep thinking is how did i fall for this stupid excuse when my kids were smaller. In cars we have the lap and shoulder belt but that was not enough safety they put in airbags for your head not to hit dash/wheel. That was not good enough still so then side air bags etc came. But a metal box with impact absorbing seating (i cry bullsheet) full of our children needs nothing.
Because of the Broncos crash all team buses must have belts or no riding. I am blown away by how much governments only seem to care about money and not thee people who put them in government.

Because if you need to evacuate a bus quickly, you don't have time to cut 70 kids out of their seat belts. And because the seats are designed to protect kids in a collision. They are close together, they are angled and they are cushioned.

How many of our children have to die before these people will put seatbelt on there school bus.what if it was one of there children they would be fighting to put seatbelt on business but because it is not there children they will keep doing the same thing by keep the seatbelt off. That is bull stch.

Just today at my orientation my mom asked me if I wanted to take a school bus this year I said yes but when I watched this I changed my mind cause in my city people drive crazy

0:30 slide to left (dun)

0:37 slide to the right (dun)

Criss cross! (dun dun)

Criss cross! (dun dun)

0:44 Cha cha real smoo- where’d jerry go?

As a school bus driver, I pray every day for safety of the kids I drive daily morning and afternoon… I believe seatbelts will happen on all buses eventually but until then all drivers cars, trucks, buses, etc, when you see a bus caution yourself, slow down, be on the look out… we all have to be careful. They're always risk but we can change statistics ourselves

Bus driver put some seatbelts in these buses
Designer:PSHH YOLO
Kid flies off the window
Bus driver:Don't ever forget to put a buckle

She actually said the reason why the US has regulations on seat belts is because it works for the u.s. but she stating that and other words all those kids dying in Canada works for Canada? That makes no sense

I’ve been in a bus crash and it was the scariest thing, at first your not paying attention and the second you realize, you have your head bashed into the front seat realizing you just got in a bus crash, I’m glad I’m still safe though.

The reason why school buses don’t carry any seatbelts is because they don’t want to get sued for seatbelt injury during an accident which could become fatal.

I think what needs to happen is for parents to band together and start demanding seatbelts on school buses I also feel that any parent of a child or children who were injured or killed in a school bus crash should file lawsuits maybe lawsuits will make the cost of installing seatbelts more appealing

My bus driver says that there's no seatbelts because she has a seatbelt cutter, and says that it will take too long to cut every seatbelt if all of them are stuck, and the seatbelr cutter gets damaged by all the cutting ;-;

"school busses are the safest form of travel"
Schools: let's shove 3 large kids with large bags or instruments (or both) in a small seat.

School buses need seatbelts, how about we put the governments children on a school bus and slam into a wall and flip it over a bunch of times

7:08 a NEW JERSEY bus!!!!! And our buses DO have seatbelts!!! In fact, ever since the I-80 illegal U-turn school bus crash (shown at 7:10) it has become required for new buses to have the 3-point seatbelts!!!!!

Local Workspace.school_bus.cancollide = false
school_bus.massless = true

Workspace.Players
OnImpactDamage = 0

This is how you stop school bus accidents / damages

The earliest study of crashes on planes show that having seats face the rear of the plane and seat belts save lives. This was implemented on military planes but not on commercial airlines because it created an air of danger of a plane. It seems that there should be a study of rearward facing seats with seatbelts. It would probably show that safety of children would be improved.

School buses should have an enclosure like rollercoasters to prevent kids flying across no kid would move from seat untill they get to destination, I had a conversation about this and city buses not having seat belts,, I guess school Buses like settling lawsuits

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