Thursday, July 21, 2011

glacial movement of a good idea

For these past few weeks of summer I have set my day in motion by driving my eight year old son to a wonderful day camp. The children that attend enjoy the benefits of an indoor and an outdoor pool. They are engaged with soccer, volley ball, kickball, wall climbing, zip lines, horse-back riding, crafts, wooded trails, a great staff and a mixed bag of other interests. The route takes me about half an hour out of my way in the morning. This is his third season, and on and off, I have considered saving time and spending the extra money to sign him up for the available transport. But as we bond a bit, sing some tunes and connect through some childish humor on our ride each sunup, it becomes clear it is not about the time or the money.

Each day an intermittent caravan of school buses surround my sedan as we trek. Most of the buses are of the short bus type, which can hold about 20 children. When stopped at a traffic signal I can look and see that none of the campers are in seatbelts. A few days ago I was driving on a six lane roadway in the late afternoon, far away from my son’s camp. A school bus of the long type, holding about 60 children, passed me on the right. Again, there was no indication of seatbelts. And, seemingly, all of the children were standing. Many of the children had poked their heads out of the bus windows, as they screeched silly heckles toward the cars below, while the bus zoomed away.

The silliness I get. The big picture-I simply don’t get. Is this the epitome of oversight, the foundation of negligence or the exemplar of stupidity?

We have gone to great lengths trying to protect people and improve vehicular safety. Seat belts, car seats, booster seats, air bags, anti-lock brakes, stability control systems and early warning systems.

Even back in the 80s, when the first genuine push towards wearing seat belts became popular, the public service commercials featuring Vince and Larry often careening through windshields were clear: ‘You could learn a lot from a dummy’. The correlation that people were supposed to make is that heads, torsos, knees, backs and other body parts don’t necessarily have to be tossed around at high speed in an accident.

But fast forward all the way to July 2011. The seatbelt laws in NYS seem to me to be as confusing as they are reckless. While riding in the front seat of a car, both driver and passenger must wear a seatbelt. No one in the front seat is allowed to stand, move around or willfully risk the head cracking scenario. Yet if any folks beyond 16 years of age are traveling in the rear seat of a car driven by an operator holding a Class-D license (for persons over age 18), they are permitted to act like dummies. To smarten up the law though, if the driver holds only a Class-DJ license (for persons under age 18), then nobody in the front or rear of the vehicle is permitted to wager on the willfully ignorant body tossing.

Regarding buses, any large type school bus built after July 1, 1987 must have seatbelts. In both the long and short variety of school buses, the bus drivers are forbidden to go beltless. But common sense ends there. Short buses don’t need seatbelts. I suppose they should be retrofitted with bumper stickers that read: ‘Sit back, relax, and screw yourself into the seat just before impact.’ And no matter when the bus was built, or the size category, each school district can set its own policy over whether or not the kids are allowed to increase the risk of knocking noggins at high speed. Oddly enough though, it seems that many districts choose to roll the dice.

Do you plan to travel in a passenger bus, taxi or a car made prior to 1964? I will save you time-as I looked it up. Crack. Crash. C-r-a-a-a-a-c-k!

Now think of all the money spent over this period on school budgets, state traffic laws, and advances in restraint systems. Yet every day, in New York State, a disgracefully large number of children wear no seatbelts when traveling to and from schools and camps.

Yup, as I said….it’s not about the time or the money. It’s about cutting class. The first and last lessons each day are truly insane.

© 2011 Christopher’s Views