Kids are much smarter than we give them credit for. Last week my five year old was tugging on his snowsuit in preparation for a field trip to explore the outdoor wilderness (the outdoor wilderness as it exists 15 minutes from the downtown core of Canada’s largest city). The temperature had finally warmed up to a balmy -11 degrees Celsius; a significant improvement from the -41 degree Celsius the polar vortex brought to town, so the black balaclava was discarded in favor of an old-fashioned scarf.
During the suiting up process, my son chatted excitedly about the impending bus ride. In fact, all of his classmates seemed more thrilled by the transportation than by the idea of hiking the park’s trails. As he babbled on about his assigned partners (they sit three to a seat) and seat location (six from the back), I hummed acknowledgement, lost in my own nostalgia for the “back seat” and how we’d fly off our bums with every bump the bus hiccupped over.
“Mom? Do you know why? Mom?”
“Do I know what?”
“Why don’t kids have to be in car seats when they’re on the school bus?”
Why don’t kids have to be in car seats while riding in a school bus? The point of this vehicle is to transport children. Children who in any other vehicle according to the Ontario Highway Traffic Act must be restrained in a child’s safety seat.
Never mind the fact that neglecting to wear a seatbelt in a car is against the law. Never mind the fact that parents spend countless hours discussing car seats and car safety with their children and hours more researching said seats.
Since I didn’t have a reasonable answer, I took to the Internet and discovered after reading various articles that the design of a school bus is meant to protect children in the event of a crash. The padded seats, nestled close together with minimal legroom, are meant to absorb the impact of a crash. The child’s body is trust into the padded seat in front and is prevented from accelerating.
In this article Transport Canada claims that lap belts could in fact cause head and neck injuries and installing shoulder-lap belts would require stiffer seats, therefore losing out on the qualities of the padded seats.
While I remain hesitant to explain various crash scenarios to my son, I do feel comforted in this newfound knowledge and can adjust my “freak-out-o-meter” accordingly.