Iowa Bus Accident Raises Questions About Student Safety

Police in Iowa say that a two-vehicle accident left at least six people injured when a truck collided with a Clinton school bus. Authorities say the accident, which happened just after 7 a.m., occurred when the driver of a pickup truck who failed to stop at a stop sign broadsided the oncoming school bus.

Clinton police officers say the bus was traveling north when a westbound pickup ran through an intersection and into the side of the school bus. The accident involved enough force that the bus was flipped over on its side. At the time of the crash the bus was carrying four special education high school students in addition to the driver. School officials say all four children were taken to a nearby hospital where they were treated for their injuries. Police have since cited the driver of the bus of failing to obey a traffic control device.

School bus accidents like this one (and another in Des Moines that we discussed only last week) raise alarming questions about why so many school buses lack even the most basic safety features standard in passenger cars. It's disturbing to think that while most parents would never dream of letting their young children ride around without seat belts on, the vast majority do so every time they hop on a bus heading to school.

According to statistics compiled by the National Transportation Safety Board, less than 20 percent of the country's 500,000 school buses come equipped with seat belts. Astoundingly, given the attention devoted to vehicle safety, legislatures in only six states have passed laws requiring installation of seat belts in school buses. The reason for the lack of legislation is that bus manufacturers have actively campaigned against seat belt requirements, claiming that the cost is prohibitive and the belts are unnecessary.

Bus manufacturers argue that seat belts on school buses are unnecessary because of the compartmentalized design of the buses. This means that buses have been designed in such a way as to protect passengers with padded seats in front and behind, shielding them from the force of a front or rear impact accident. Manufacturers go so far as to say that seat belts could actually endanger lives by trapping children in buses.

One major flaw in this argument, which was clearly evident in the recent Iowa bus accident, is that the compartmentalized design does nothing to cushion the blow of side impact or rollover accidents. This is a serious problem given that federal safety statistics show that nearly 75 percent of all deadly bus accidents were attributed to rollover collisions when passengers were ejected from the bus, exactly the kind of thing that seat belts are designed to prevent.

Source: "Bus Accident In Clinton, Iowa," by Jeff Whitten, published at

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