The CBC has ignited a controversy regarding seat-belt use on school buses that has resulted in confusion and misunderstanding.

We all understand that keeping children safe on school buses is of great importance. However what may appear to be an obvious solution is not. This issue is complicated and a quick fix may lead to more danger than is realized.

In the most recent news, the CBC has reported that certain Micro Bird minibuses contain a safety detect with respect to insufficient padding at the back face of seat-backs. This lack of padding could cause injury to children during heavy braking or other longitudinal deceleration such as a frontal impact.  The requirement for padding evolves from the fact that school buses are not equipped with seat-belts and the padding is needed as the partial substitute.

It needs to be understood that minibuses are far different from full size buses with respect to the type and severity of injuries that could be generated. Minibuses, as the name implies, are much smaller and weight much less than full size school buses. These are important facts. Mass (weight) is a critical factor in determining whether an occupant will be injured and what type or severity of injury will be sustained. Because of their lower mass and volume minibuses may generate different types and severities of injuries than full size school buses. This point has never been made in discussions about school bus seat-belts.

Unfortunately many persons are jumping on the bandwagon and declaring their support for installation of seat-belts on school buses without really understanding why Transport Canada decided not to mandate their installation. Seat-belt installation and usage may help prevent some injuries and reduce the severity of others but on the flip side, other injuries will occur through usage of seat-belts, some of which could be life-threatening. The discussion so far is short on  examining the full complexity of the issue and this could adversely affect  the safety of innocent children.