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What are New York’s school bus seat belt laws?

Every day that you send your child off to school, you are entrusting his or her care to someone whom you may not know operating a vehicle that, by all outward appearances, requires special skills to drive. This lack of knowledge and control over your child’s well-being may seem unsettling. Knowing exactly what the safety and liability standards are for school buses may help to put your mind at ease (or even empower you to push for added safety protocols).

According to the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, all school buses manufactured after July 1 of 1987 must be equipped with seat belts. However, state law does not currently mandate that such restraints be used. It instead leaves that decision up to the individual school districts. The only exception to this rule is for children under the age of four, who must secured in a federally approved child safety seat when riding on a school bus. You may ask why the state would require that buses be equipped with seat belts, only to then not require that they be used. The generally accepted answer is so that bus drivers are not tasked with doing seat belt checks with every new pickup, which could greatly slow down their routes.

While such reasoning may be understandable, it may serve as little solace should your child be injured in a school bus accident. You and other parents may prompt school districts to change their policies by pointing out the benefits of school bus seat belt use, such as:

  •          Ensuring children’s safety
  •          Promoting better behavior on the bus
  •          Presenting fewer distractions to the bus driver

While this suggestion should not be viewed as legal advice, it could help you and other parents, as well as school district officials, sleep more soundly. 

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