Is It Time For Mandatory Seatbelts On Buses?

On April 6th 2018, 16 people were killed and 13 were injured when a coach bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos minor hockey team collided with a semi-truck trailer near Armley, Saskatchewan. The unspeakable tragedy sparked Canada-wide discussions about highway safety, transportation standards, and what steps must be taken to protect Canadians. Families of the Humboldt Broncos successfully pressured the federal government to legislate a requirement that all newly built highway buses are to have seatbelts included by 2020—but what about school buses?

School Bus Safety a Concern

The Canadian Safety Council states that school buses are one of the safest modes of transportation—approximately “6 times safer than travelling in a family car per passenger/kilometre of travel.” According to the Alberta Occupant Restraint Program, Canadian “school buses are not equipped with seatbelts because they are built and designed with a passive safety system, which has been specifically designed and tested to provide optimal protection for children and smaller passengers. This passive protection system is known as “compartmentalization,” and currently provides the best protection for passengers on buses.”

However, “a 2010 Transport Canada report concluded current compartmentalization safety features on buses are not enough to stop injuries, particularly in side impacts and rollovers.” The expertise of the Canadian Safety Council’s and Alberta Occupant Restraint Program’s claims was further challenged by a CBC investigation that exposed serious flaws in an influential 1984 Transport Canada study that claimed children were safer without seatbelts in school buses.

Responding directly to the CBC investigation, Federal Transport Minister, Marc Garneau, announced the creation of a task force to examine the issue and develop recommendations regarding the use of seatbelts in school buses. Ultimately, while the federal government is responsible for minimum vehicle safety requirements, transportation laws, and enforcement are the responsibility of individual provinces and territories.

Alberta Takes Notice and Promises Action

On January 28th, 2019, a school bus in the Foothills School Division #38 rolled on its side south of Calgary, seriously injuring a student. The next day, Alberta’s transport minister, Brian Mason, said the province is moving quickly to perform its own consultation about seatbelts in school buses, as the “(t)he existing wisdom with respect to that and the study that Transport Canada has based its current policy on needs to be reviewed.”

With thousands of children taking buses to and from school every day in Alberta, it is hoped that the province will respond quickly and thoroughly to ensure that our kids stay as safe as possible.

If you have suffered a personal injury on a school bus, or otherwise, contact the personal injury lawyers at Pipella Law today to learn how they can help you recover from this traumatic experience.