People are Dumb: Part 3 – Seatbelts

Today, sadly, there was a horrific bus accident. Probably one of the worst ones so far this year – the impact actually ripped the bus off its frame. A bus in Paramus hit a dump truck almost head-on.

It brought me back to a time in the not-so-distant past when my son’s school was being renovated and there was a danger that the debris from the construction would be in the air. So, the school’s parents – a loud, kicking screaming faction of them – petitioned the Board of Ed to have the kids moved to a more healthy environment. Across town.

So I said, Hey:

  1. We’ve consulted with health experts whose job is to be health experts in fact that’s literally how words work, and they say the kids are in no danger
  2. Actually, for a tenth the cost, we could improve their current classrooms with air purifiers – which we don’t even really need – and the kicker is, the construction company would pay for it
  3. Also, in order to keep our kids safe, you want to have them get on busses and travel across the city during rush hour?

And they did. Because no one gets deeply passionate about the guy looking up stats and calling engineers.

I mention this not just because it’s important to remember that loud stupidity is often more powerful than facts, but because it’s really relevant to another debate that we would also have. Seatbelts. On busses. And it goes like this.

Pro: Seatbelts save lives. It just makes sense that they would save lives on busses like they do in cars.

Con: The numbers say that they don’t. Morons.

Let me dive into that con just a bit more with a fact that matters, even though it might be hard to swallow in light of the tragedy I just referenced. In fact, there are like… twelve deaths… on school busses… in our country… every year. Just think about that for a second. Just want to say this loud and proud: Every year, 7 times as many are killed by coconuts.

You are safer on a school bus than basically any form of transportation ever.

And yet, every year, some group of well meaning and of course moronic parents gets together a petition and screams and shouts about the safety of their kids. Some states even… dumbly… mandate them. And when faced with the fact that they should really be worried about coconuts, they turn and look you in the eye and say:

Why don’t you care about your child’s safety?

The same argument I hear when I talk to my friend in California who, not like, in danger of being TOO intelligent, insists his ten-year old will be in a car seat until He Is Convincedhe’s ready not to be.

And he looks down on anti-vaxxers.

Which he should.


All this to say that one more thing that makes us dumb is the irrationality of our fear. And while I’ll explore this in the second part of this series, I wanted to post this now because at least among my townie parent friends, someone is going to see this crash as a reminder of how important seatbelts are on busses.

Oh, and just before I close up, let me explain why they’re dumb. First, busses aren’t just safe because they’re just… statistically fantastically safe. Though that should be enough reason. In fact, it’s because of the Compartmentalization – which is another way of saying that every single kid is in their own, bumper-ed cage on the bus. And, they’re much higher than most of the cars they’d hit. And busses are bright yellow. There’re even more reasons, but suffice it to say busses are just great. And seatbelts could actually hurt. This is because wearing them improperly could cause choking or neck injuries, particularly because kids vary so much in size, it’s nearly impossible to make them work for every kid. So, we use lap-belts which we already know are more likely to cause spinal injuries. Also, when a bus does tip over, the already safe kids are now trapped in the bus.

So let me show you the school bus that happened just today.

Just look at that. Look at it. Totaled. Just smashed to bits.

No one was killed. Two kids are in the hospital. That’s it. School busses are a triumph of design over time. We should be building statues to the engineers who design and build them. Instead, we titter around them like they’re a late-model Civic, asking, Okay, but is it safe enough? Hey, Parental, your brand new Mercedes SUV is, statistically speaking, more likely to harm your kid than this twenty year old school bus. Stop asking for seatbelts on school busses and read a book or something.

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