A head-on collision between a school bus and a car in Alabama on March 2nd, 2020 killed one person and injured several students. The crash occurred around 7 am near Oak Grove Road in Munford on Alabama Highway 21. Sheriff of Talladega County, Jimmy Kilgore, confirmed that the driver of the passenger vehicle was killed and about 20 injured students were sent to the hospital.
The Talladega County Coroner identified the deceased as Victoria Faye Burdette, who was 41 years old and was a resident of Talladega. Injured students taken to the hospital included seven students of Munford Elementary, nine students of Munford Middle, and four students of Munford High, according to Schools’ Superintendent Suzanne Lacey.
The district staff reported to the accident site and accompanied the injured students and the bus driver to Talladega’s Citizen’s Hospital.
No Seat Belts Required for School Buses in Alabama
The accident has once again raised the debate on why Alabama has no legal requirement for seat belts in school buses. Just last month, a bus video recording of a crash in Ohio showed students being throw across as the bus flipped on its side.
According to some experts, in exceptional circumstances (such as a school bus which has fallen in water) or in a catastrophic accident, seat belts would make it harder for children to get out quickly.
However, the typical accidents involving school buses do not pose these exceptional circumstances, and seat belts would help in preventing injuries. Some industry observers believe that seat belts for school buses may soon become a federal requirement.
Lack of Funding could be the Real Problem
It is common sense that seat belts save lives. It seems almost an illogical argument that the risks of seat belts outweigh the benefits. Therefore, it is hard to understand why Alabama would not have a law requiring school buses to have seat belts.
Insiders in the Alabama State Department of Education concur that the real issue behind this situation is lack of funds. It would be necessary to purchase new buses if it is required to ensure every school bus has seat belts.
Secondly, the number of students that can be accommodated on a school bus would be lower when seat belts are installed. This would effectively mean a higher operational cost to run a school bus. As of now, it appears that cost and funding issues are putting the lives of students who use the school bus in Alabama at risk.
Where’s the money going to come from? Teachers’ salaries? Government waste? Some people believe the school district could afford to replace a couple buses a year and perhaps in two decades every child has a seat with a seat belt to sit in.