Monday, August 27, 2007

The Bus Itself

The bus itself is pretty much what you would expect. Yellow, of course, with those stop signs that swing out and annoy the hell out of you before you have children. Bench seats with no seat belts. Lovely woman named Diane behind the wheel who has no doubt watched hundreds, maybe thousands, of tearful parents put their Kindergarteners on the bus for the first time, yet still smiles reassuringly and says, “don’t worry, we’ll take care of her.” You get the impression that Diane would jump in front of traffic for these kids, and maybe has. Diane is definitely my favorite thing about the yellow bus.

But let’s get back to those bench seats. Doesn’t it seem odd that, in this age of five-point harness systems and helmets on tricycle-riders, school buses still don’t have seat belts? A friend told me recently that slip ’n slides now have bumpers at the bottom, I suppose to prevent kids from slipping and sliding out into oncoming traffic. Tell me honestly – would you think to yourself, “well, normally I wouldn’t let the kids careen down the hill towards the interstate, but since that bumper is there…” I mean really. And yet it’s fine for nearly every school-aged child in the country to ride to and from school every day without the precaution that in most vehicles is required by law? Is there an actual reason for this, or is it simply that we’ve spent the money for school bus seat belts on the war in Iraq?

Here is one of the many things I love about Google: you don’t have to reduce your question to search terms, you can just ask it directly, as if this were not a computer you were talking to but an especially friendly and helpful librarian. When I asked Google “why aren’t there seat belts on school buses?” Google informed me that there are about 1,270,000 web sites that address that question. Based on my exhaustive perusal of the top three, I’d say that the reasons boil down to this: some researchers say we don’t need them. Plus, we’ve spent the money for school bus seat belts on the war in Iraq.

Luckily, Diane is behind the wheel, and I’m not worried.

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