An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
ALL NEWLY BUILT highway buses will be required to have seatbelts starting in September of 2020.
When a school bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team collided with a semi in April, 16 people were killed and 13 others injured. That brought new attention to an issue that’s been debated countless times already.
The differences between highway passenger buses, school buses and city transit buses are invariably pointed out. Different jurisdictions have different laws.
A Canada Safety Council spokesman says the new federal law is “long overdue” and the delay until September 2020 is a concern.
Recently, however, the council claimed school buses are one of the safest methods of transportation — 16 times safer than travelling in the family car. Another article I read said it’s 40 times safer.
Seat belts wouldn’t improve safety, said the safety council, pointing out school buses already have many other safety features, including escape hatches and high padded seatbacks.
Hollow reassurance in the wake of the Humboldt crash. And who can forget the terrible crash four years ago of a tour bus on the Coquihalla?
Transport Canada says seatbelts would reduce fatalities by anywhere between 36 and 77 per cent depending on the type of collision.
City buses don’t include the safety features or robust construction of school and highway passenger buses. In fact, their lower floors — made for the boarding convenience of passengers — are said to make them more prone to damage in the seating area in the event of a collision.
So why aren’t seatbelts mandatory in all buses? Well, they’re expensive. Seatbelts would add thousands of dollars to the cost of each bus, and would reduce the number of seats. That would mean more buses on the road.
And while the argument over seatbelts in school buses and highway buses continues, there doesn’t seem to be much interest in putting them into city buses.
But I figure way too much time has been spent on worrying about cost and arguing the differences between how buses are used. Time to make seatbelts for all buses a priority, Now, not two years from now.
Mel Rothenburger’s Armchair Mayor editorials appear Mondays through Thursdays on CFJC- TV. His Armchair Mayor column is published Saturdays on ArmchairMayor.ca and CFJC Today. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.