School Buses Not Designed for Rollover Crashes - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

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School Buses Not Designed for Rollover Crashes

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Monday's rollover bus accident in Winchester points to what experts say is a big safety problem for our children.

It's a problem they say could be fixed -- if there were seat belts on school buses.

The bus ran off the road on the way to school and flipp over onto its side. About 25 children were transported to a local hospital.

But NewsChannel 5's chief investigative reporter, Phil Williams, has discovered that school buses were just not designed to protect against such rollovers.

School bus safety is built around a concept called compartmentalization. That's the padded seats behind your child and in front of your child -- which works great if the bus crashes into another vehicle.

But test video, obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates, shows exactly what happens in the case of a rollover. The test dummies are thrown around like clothes in a dryer.

And video from a real-life school bus accident shows just how violent a rollover crash can be.

Yet, federal safety regulators have been suggesting for a decade that buses could be made even safer.

"Current compartmentalization is incomplete in that it does not protect school bus passengers during lateral impacts with vehicles of large mass and in rollovers," the National Transportation Safety Board wrote in 1999.

Seat belt developer James Johnson said it's a serious problem.

"Rollovers are very common in accidents where children are hurt," Johnson first told NewsChannel 5 Investigates four years ago. "So while they may represent a small number of the the accidents across the country, when they do happen, children can get hurt. That's when you'll find injuries and fatalities."

During the course of our investigation, we caught up with one private school where lap and shoulder belts are required to protect children in such accidents -- and parents were highly supportive.

But neither federal nor state governments have required them.

Skeptics say such serious crashes just don't occur often enough to be worth the money.

So it's left up to each school system to decide if they want them.

Back to NewsChannel 5 Investigates

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