FORT SMITH (KFSM) – The school bus the students were riding on in the Van Buren bus crash Monday (Jan. 5) was not equipped with seat belts according to Arkansas State Police.
There have been three deaths from school bus crashes in Arkansas since 2001, according to the senior transportation manager at the Arkansas Department of Education Mike Simmons.
"Fatalities in school busses are a rarity,” Simmons said.
"There haven't been that many fatalities, true, but anytime that there is an accident involving kids -- and usually they’re not sitting straight in seats -- they're turned around and whatever. I think it's just smart that we have seat belts to protect our children,” Anne Sayers said while waiting to pick up children from school Tuesday (Jan. 6).
The American School Bus Council says on its website that school buses are designed on a different model than the average passenger car, and there are already plenty of safety measures in place.
It says children on a school bus are protected like eggs in an egg carton -- compartmentalized, and surrounded with padding.
Simmons says the padding in the seats will “absorb the energy in a crash.”
Another issue, he says, is the differences in the size of the children on school busses.
"It is a big issue because you are holding everything from a 5-year-old to an 18-year-old.”
Simmons said there are at least four states that require seat belts in school busses -- New York, California, Florida and New Jersey. Texas also has school busses with seat belts, he said.
Simmons said it would cost between $8,000 and $10,000 to add seat belts to one school bus. There are about 450,000 school buses nationwide.