Magoffin County crash prompts questions about school bus safety

Magoffin County crash prompts questions about school bus safety
Published: Nov. 14, 2022 at 9:47 PM EST
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MAGOFFIN COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - The Magoffin County school bus crash has left many questioning the safety of school buses and what can be done to make sure students get to school safely.

Monday, school officials were asked about adding seat belts to school buses. In Kentucky, they are an option for any new school bus that school districts purchase.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says school buses are designed to be safer than passenger vehicles, especially when it comes to preventing injuries.

“Of course as a parent, you love your children and you want to protect them,” said Magoffin County Schools Superintendent, Chris Meadows.

However, more than a dozen children were injured in Monday’s crash, after the school bus they were on went over an embankment.

Superintendent Meadows says the district follows procedures and protocols to maintain safety.

“Our drivers are trained, our buses are maintained,” Meadows said.

Last school year there were just over 1,000 school bus incidents in Kentucky. Nearly half were in the morning, and 360 were in rural areas. Data from the state shows 129 students were hurt in crashes.

“I think when it comes to student safety, everything is on the table,” Meadows said. “You always want to consider what you can do.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, buses are designed with a concept called “compartmentalization.” This protects students without them needing to be buckled in. students are supposed to be protected by the closely spaced seats that absorb energy.

However, the National Transportation Safety Board does recommend states require lap and shoulder belts for all school bus passengers, saying the seat designs do not help in incidents where buses are hit from the side or rollover.

“Accidents do happen. It’s unfortunate when they do, but I would just say that I still feel hope and trust in our employees and I would hope that our parents do too, in the days to come.”

A spokesperson with the Kentucky Department of Education says, “Our thoughts are with all of those in Magoffin County who have been impacted by today’s bus accident. We are praying for a safe recovery for all of those injured. The Kentucky Department of Education has been in touch with districts officials throughout the day and we will continue to support them.

Seatbelts are currently an option for any new school bus that our school districts purchase. In addition, some of the newer buses can have lap and shoulder belts retrofitted. KDE and the manufacturers are constantly testing and implementing new safety features for school buses to keep them as safe as possible.”