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Are seat belts required on California's school buses?

California Vehicle Code (VC), Section 27316 requires that all newly manufactured school buses have shoulder/lap belts installed on them by their manufacturer before they can be used to transport passengers. This law covers both Type 1 and 2 buses with manufacture dates of July 1, 2005 or July 1, 2004, respectively.

A statistic, released by the California Department of Education in 2007, suggested that as few as 1,900 among the 25,822 school buses of authorized school buses had these type of safety restraints in place.

Since this law has been put in place, state legislators have agreed to allow for noncompliant school buses to be retrofitted with passenger restraint systems in accordance with the law.

Equipment installed must meet both the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard and original equipment manufacturers guidelines. A bus retrofitted with post-market restraints must be inspected by California Highway Patrol before it's allowed to carry passengers.

The use of seat belts by passengers is required under California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 14105. Title 13, Section 1215(b)(1)(A) of that same code holds school bus drivers responsible visually inspecting passenger restraints on a daily basis to ensure that they're in safe, working order.

It's important to note, however, that the same aforementioned state vehicle code stops short of allowing bus drivers or school districts to be held criminally liable for not enforcing seat belt use. The state doesn't preclude a plaintiff, however, from filing a civil lawsuit to recover compensation for injuries that result from a seat belt law not being enforced.

If your child has been seriously injured while being transported to school, on a field trip or to a sports game, then a San Bernardino bus accident attorney can advise you of your rights to recover medical costs.

Source: California Department of Education, "Passenger restraints: Frequently asked questions," accessed Jan. 31, 2018

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