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Top safety official pushing for school buses to install seat belts

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Posted at 7:22 PM, Nov 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-09 20:57:30-05

Some studies estimate that as many as 25 million children ride the bus to school every morning. The vast majority of them do so without a seat belt.

That could change soon, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) endorsed seat belts on all American school buses for the first time on Sunday.

"...saving lives is what we are about. So NHTSA's policy is that every child on every school bus should have a three-point seat belt," NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said.

Currently, only six states (California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York and Texas) require school buses to be equipped with seat belts. 

According to CBS News, outfitting a school bus with seat belts could cost between $7,000 and $10,000 per bus, meaning it would cost billions for states to implement seat belts.

"Seat belts save lives, and it should be on every school bus for every kid," Rosekind said. "Let's start figuring out how to make that happen, not what the barriers are, but how to get those seat belts on every school bus."

The NHTSA has studied retrofitting buses with safety belts in the past. However, they determined that because buses are heavier and sit higher than cars, passengers were safe without seat belts. Studies have also shown that high seat backs keep children from being thrown around in crashes.

"Is this a change in position? Yes," Rosekind said. "But it is consistent with NHTSA's role as the guardian of safety on America's roads. It is consistent with decades of progress in raising seat belts in the minds of the public from novelty to nuisance to 'the car doesn't move until I hear that click.' Seat belts are icons of safety."

According to a 2010 report by the Today show, about six children are killed each year in bus accidents.

Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.