MCPS to phase in seat belt equipped buses


Kurumi Sato

Busses line up outside the main entrance before the last bell. MCPS will phase in new school buses with seat belts over the next 12 years.

By Ben Waldman

MCPS will phase in new school buses with seat belts over the next 12 years in hopes of improving student safety by 2031.

“School travel research continues to indicate that school buses are the safest way to get to and from school,” an Aug. 27 MCPS press release stated. “Introducing school buses equipped with seat belt systems makes an extremely safe vehicle even safer.”

Roughly every 12 years MCPS replaces its buses, meaning about one-twelfth of the fleet is replaced annually. 

It can be very expensive to install seatbelts on older buses, said Alan Heard, communications manager for MCPS’ Transportation Central Administration. The newer buses, however, have a different seat design that allows for easy installation of seat belts. Instead of benches, the new seats will be shaped more like regular car seats.

“The actual infrastructure [of the old buses] is not conducive to seat belts,” Heard said. “The installation of lap-shoulder belts was not feasible.”

Even without seat belts, school buses are still designed for safety. Fewer than six children die on school buses annually, with school buses accounting for less than one percent of traffic fatalities.

A portion of community members are skeptical of whether seat belts improve safety on school buses. The National Education Association opposes the installation of seat belts since students can misuse the belt buckles as weapons.

Junior Julia Cronin is doubtful the initiative will make a difference, she said.

“I don’t think anyone would actually end up wearing seat belts,” Cronin said. “They would be really uncomfortable because they’d dig into your back. A lot seats end up having three people smushed into them that are really meant for two people.”

However, MCPS is hopeful that the move will ultimately improve student safety.

“Our aim is to ensure our students are safe while riding on our school buses,” MCPS spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala said.