A common misconception is that school buses do not have seatbelts to prevent lawsuits. The truth is that school buses are designed to protect occupants from accidents by using other safety features such as compartmentalization and structure.

Learn why school buses don’t have seatbelts and what this means for bus passengers and other vehicles on the road. If you or your child suffer injuries in an auto collision, contact Dudley DeBosier for legal advice.

How Safe Are School Buses?

School buses are statistically much safer than other methods of transportation. According to the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration, students are 70 times more likely to arrive safely at school using a school bus than traveling by car.

Of the 1,125 people killed in school-transportation-related crashes between 2011 and 2020, just 60 were passengers. This is a lower fatality rate than other transportation methods used to travel to and from school.

For example, in 2019 alone, 608 children lost their lives in car crashes in the United States.

School Bus Safety Measures

There are a few reasons for the safety differences between school buses and cars.

Regulation and Training

Buses are among the most regulated vehicles on the road. Currently, 10 congressional committees and three Department of Transportation agencies regulate and oversee school-bus safety.

School-bus drivers are vetted and trained to maximize safety. School-bus drivers undergo driving, emergency medical treatment, and safety and security training. They also experience frequent driving-record monitoring, pre-employment, and random drug and alcohol screenings.


The overall design of large school buses leads to a different distribution of crash forces. School buses are designed to absorb the kinetic energy of a crash by redirecting the energy away from the passenger cabin without distributing it to passengers. Bus riders are subjected to considerably less impact force during an accident than passengers in an automobile, leading to fewer injuries for bus riders.


Another design feature that helps protect school bus occupants is the vehicle’s visibility. School buses are typically painted in a highly visible yellow and include several sets of bright lights and multiple mirror systems.

Manufacturers use school bus yellow because it can be seen in the peripheral vision field 1.24 times faster than other colors.

These features help the school-bus driver and other drivers avoid accidents by increasing the bus’s visibility.


The Highway Safety Transportation Administration has implemented a safety strategy called “compartmentalization” for school buses instead of mandating individual restraints.

Through this method, school buses protect occupants with substantial, energy-absorbing seating placed in narrow rows. This structure protects students by absorbing the kinetic energy transfer of the crash while cushioning the student from resulting movement in the cabin.

While seatbelts are unnecessary in larger school buses due to compartmentalization, smaller school buses (under 10,000 pounds) do not feature the same safety protections as larger buses. Smaller school buses must have lap and shoulder safety belts on every seat.

School Bus Safety Research

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has created regulations to protect occupants of school buses, which apply to buses in Louisiana. Among these regulations are the NHTSA’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for School Bus Seating and Crash Protection, which outlines the crash safety requirements for all school buses in the United States.

A NHTSA study included compartmentalization, compartmentalization with lap belt, and compartmentalization with lap/shoulder belt. They tested various seat spacings and seatback heights.

Their findings indicated that seatbelts do not protect against the risk of death or injury in an accident in large school buses.

School Bus Regulations in Louisiana

Louisiana regulates a few aspects of school bus transportation, such as traffic restrictions when students are embarking or disembarking from the bus.

Louisiana also requires all buses to have a few uniform features, including “school bus glossy yellow” paint and an automatic backup alarm audible from 100 feet away in normal conditions.

Schedule a Consultation with Dudley DeBosier Injury Lawyers

If you or your child has been injured in an automobile or school bus accident, choosing an attorney with experience and skill in handling auto accident cases is crucial.

The New Orleans injury lawyers at Dudley DeBosier Injury Lawyers can review your case and help you understand potential legal options after a crash.

Call our law firm today to schedule a free consultation with one of our personal injury lawyers to help you with your next steps after a school bus collision.

Disclaimer: This content has been reviewed by Chad Lederman, Director of Legal Operations at our New Orleans office.

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