Ever wonder why school buses don’t have seat belts? You’re not alone.

Currently, only six states require school buses to be outfitted with seat belts – a remarkably small figure that has troubled many parents and educators for years.

After all, why wouldn’t there be some kind of legislation that requires such basic safety features in the vehicles that take millions of kids back and forth from school every day?

It turns out the lack of seat belts on school buses was a function of their original design. For decades, school buses have been built with “compartmentalization” in mind.

The idea is that by keeping kids contained in wide, tall cushioned seating areas, any physical harm incurred from an impact will be fairly minimal.

  • This design principle is often colloquially referred to as the “egg carton” theory.

The trouble is that compartmentalization doesn’t do much good in the event of a rollover. Once passengers are thrown out of their seating areas there’s nothing to stop them from crashing into one another and the hard interior surfaces of the bus. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates these types of accidents are responsible for four deaths every year on school buses. According to CBS, “the agency believes seat belts would cut that number in half.”

The cost to retrofit millions of school buses with seat belts would be enormous – billions of dollars, by some estimates – but many industry authorities believe that the cost would be worth it meant preventing future injuries and deaths in America’s school buses.

The push for new regulatory legislation will likely be a long and slow process, but it’s a cause that many parents feel very strongly about. Mark Rosekind, administrator at the NHTSA, estimates that the push for new legislation could take close to a decade to accomplish.