Study focuses on school bus safety

Study focuses on school bus safety

For 23 million students in this county, the school day begins and ends with a trip on a school bus.  New research brings unsettling news about the number of children who are hurt on the ride, finding an average of 17,000 injuries happen every year.

Recently, than a dozen children are hurt in a school bus accident in Pennsylvania. It was a scene new research in the journal Pediatrics suggests is happening more often than previously thought.

The study out of Columbus Children's Hospital finds car-bus collisions are the most common cause of injury.

Researcher Dr. Gary Smith says adding seat belts to all buses would help prevent children from being tossed around.

"I think there is no room for discussion," Smith said. "If we want to have our children safe when they are traveling to and from school and we also want them to model behavior that they are going to use with other forms of transportation -- use of seatbelts is very very important."

Dr. Smith was quick to point out that, despite the new numbers, school buses are still safer than cars. He's hopeful the findings will trigger change to make them even safer.

Each year in the united states, 23.5 million children travel more than 4 billion miles on 450,000 school buses.

Four states - New York, New Jersey, Louisiana and Florida require lap belts on buses. California is the only state to require 3-point restraints on school buses.

This study is the first to provide national estimates of children and teenagers with nonfatal school bus-related injuries who were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments. Previous reports released by the Transportation Research Board (TBA) estimated that there are only 5,500 school bus-related injuries per year to children as school bus passengers.School bus-related injury data for the TBA comes from the National Automotive Sampling System which contains data on traffic crashes that result in property damage, injury, or death. The data does not include school bus-related injuries associated with other mechanism.

This study analyzed Nationally representative data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System All-Injury Program operated by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. Case subjects included all of the patients in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System All-Injury Program database who were treated in a hospital emergency department for a nonfatal school bus-relate injury from 2001 to 2003.
The researchers note that the actual number of injuries could be even higher as many school bus-related injuries are not treated at the hospital but by a child's caregivers, a private physician's office, a non-emergency department health care facility, or simply not treated at all.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said school bus designs are safe and has declined to make seat belts mandatory in spite of a 1999 warning by the national transportation safety board that new measures were needed to hold bus passengers in their seats during accidents.

Federal regulators have repeatedly argued that protection from belts would be minimal, installation costs would be too high, seating capacity would be decreased and enforcing seat-belt use would be difficult.

Researchers at the Columbus Children's Research Institute also discovered: Children 10-14 years had the highest annual rate of injury, followed by children 5-9 years and children 15-19 years.  The greatest percentage of school bus-related injuries was treated during the months of Sept./Oct. The head was the most frequent body region injured, accounting for more than 15,000 injuries.