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Forum News Service, Published January 27 2013

Ask a state trooper: Why no seat-belt use in school buses?

Q: With all the emphasis on Click It and Ticket (seat belt use), why is it not enforced on school buses? You would think our children would be our No. 1 priority. I think this is true in Minnesota and Wisconsin. I also don’t see them on city buses or cross-country buses.

A: Good question! Head Start-type buses do have seat belts and child restraint devices, which are required, and those drivers have training about them, but generally, normal school buses do not have seat belts. The main reason is that school buses are extremely safe to ride in. Statistics show that we have very few fatalities in them and hardly any that involve the non-use of the seat belt. Buses are built very rugged and are high off the ground. Where the children sit on the seat is really high in comparison to a normal car, which could ram the side of the bus, so the children would be sitting above that. The sides and framing are beefed up compared to a normal vehicle.

There is no way to easily enforce a seat-belt law on buses because of how high the bus is. Bus drivers are too busy and already have too much responsibility to police their use. The other enforcement projects are based on crash statistics, and there is really no warrant for seat belts on buses, although there has been a bunch of people trying to get a law passed to get them in, which may happen. Seat belt systems have a price and will add to the cost of the bus. Kids might vandalize them, and/or use them as weapons, and they could fly around and hurt the kids if the bus is involved in a crash. Having said all of that, you just might see them in buses anyway in the near future because of pushes for legislation, and we will have to figure out how to enforce the issue when that time comes. Thanks for asking.

Q: I understand the purpose of rumble strips, but question the number and height of several median strips on Highway 169 between Hill City and Aitkin. They are in areas where the visibility for passing is very clear. However, the strips are so high it is difficult to control the car when passing. My trips are with my daughter in her large Toyota Forerunner SUV. It must be quite dangerous for smaller vehicles attempting to pass in those areas. What was the thinking in placement of these strips?

A: I checked with MnDOT officials for you. They said that, “Center line rumble strips are a proven low-cost and proactive safety device. Just this past year they have become a safety standard on all 55 mph two-lane roads. The depth of the rumble is 3/8-inch to ½-inch deep, spaced every 12 inches. There has been no evidence that drivers have gone out of control passing on them.” I will add that sometimes speed or road conditions can be issues that drivers need to seriously take into consideration when you are thinking about passing. Thanks for asking.

Sgt. Curt S. Mowers is a regional public information officer for the Minnesota State Patrol.