OPINION: It might be time to add seat belts in school buses

The BC Liberals may have a slam dunk — finally — with their latest effort to advance their agenda in a divided legislature with an initiative to require seatbelts on new school buses.

BC Liberal MLA Laurie Throness (Chilliwack-Kent) introduced a private member's bill that would require all new school buses in B.C. purchased after 2021 to be equipped with seatbelts.

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With cars required to have seatbelts and airline travellers required to put them on during turbulence, landing and take-off, it only makes sense that our most vulnerable travellers are protected, too.

Still, it’s hard to say how much this bill, if passed, would affect local students.

Not all school districts still transport students via school bus from home to school as the little yellow school bus was long ago removed as a public service because of the cost.

But schools do charter buses occasionally and some high schools have buses for field trips.

Where school buses are more frequently used is in rural districts and it's likely the province would have to pay for the new restraining devices when buses are replaced in a few years.

And while we don’t know the cost, it seems seat belts would be a reasonable safety precaution to take.

In his presentation, Throness cited Transport Canada information from more 25,000 collisions involving school buses in Canada from 1995 to 2004 that resulted in five deaths and more than 3,400 injuries.

The province, meanwhile, is awaiting results of a federal government report on school bus safety, including seatbelt policy, before making any changes.

However wise that report may be, and waiting for federal input could also come with funding, it should be noted that the safety of students is a non-partisan issue that should be embraced by all sides.

 

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