Lafayette crash renews bus seatbelt debate

Published: .
Updated: .

One day after the rollover wreck of a Lafayette special needs school bus, there is new talk about restraints on school buses.

"I think it helps if all the kids have seatbelts if that bus is going to flip over," said Karla Cotter.

Cotter is a parent in Tippecanoe schools, which invested in some restraint-equipped buses.

She says, "my older son rode the bus and they didn't have seatbelts. I was okay with it, but I feel safer now with belts. You can be thrown around on that bus."

Video of an Ohio school bus rollover from several years ago shows children flying from their seats and crashing into the bus's interior wall - and into other students.

But video from tests conducted by Westfield's IMMI show the contrast. Test dummies kept in their seats, despite the wreck simulation.

Now in Lafayette schools, where only special needs buses have restraints, Superintendent Les Huddle says, "We're certainly anticipating after this particular accident that a conversation will regenerate, we'll probably look at that option."

The option to expand restraints to other buses in the fleet.

But restraint systems can add over $6,000 to the cost of a bus and most school bus accidents don't involve rollovers.

The bus industry says high-backed seats are designed to catch and protect students in a wreck, without belts.

Those are some of the reasons Indiana lawmakers killed plans to require belts even after a fatal Indiana charter school bus accident last year. Also, studies showing buses are much safer for kids than cars and half the fatalities involving kids and buses happen off the bus.

But Cotter isn't worried about cost.

"I'm willing to pay for the safety of the kids," she said.

Lafayette's Erin Marsell says, "They all should have seatbelts."