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WHY AREN'T KIDS USING SCHOOL-BUS SEAT BELTS?

Recent tragedies on our highways have brought travel safety to the forefront of many people's concerns. We are in an age when it is considered near child abuse to drive with a young child not secured in a car seat. We take care not to seat children in the front seat of a car that has air bags.

But one area that is noticeably lax is seat belts in school buses. Although most newer buses are equipped with them, many older buses are not. Seat belts have a proven track record for saving lives and helping to prevent serious injuries. Even worse is the fact that buses equipped with seat belts often see them go unused. In many instances, the only children required to use seat belts are those who are being punished for being disruptive. Not only does this defeat the purpose of having seat belts for safety purposes, but it teaches the child to associate negative feelings with their use.

Requiring that seat belts be installed in new school buses is a good first step, but it does not go far enough. Older buses need to be retrofitted with these life-saving devices. Schools must enforce the use of seat belts in the buses that have them. Parents must encourage seat-belt use by their children, and set an example by buckling up themselves. It won't be cheap to make our buses safer, but considering the potential cost of apathy to this matter, the money would be well spent.

MICHAEL S. ALBERT, M.D. Hamburg

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