Sunday, April 3, 2016

School Bus Seatbelts - or Grave Markers? - weekly column

Mack Hall, HSG

Seatbelts or Grave Markers

As we follow our own little trails through the woods of life we tend not to think about things we don’t think about, as Bertie Wooster might say.

One thing we were made to think about last week was the usefulness of seatbelts in school busses. We should indeed thank God that no young person was killed, and now we should thank God further by doing more ourselves to protect young people.

After the deaths of children in a school vehicle rollover near Beaumont ten years ago, I naively assumed that the “they” – which in truth is “we” – had done something about seatbelts. Beyond a bit of p.r. and some weak, vague, and unfunded suggestions by the State of Texas, well, no.

As Representative James White wisely says, "Here's the point, when it comes to the safety of our students…it’s not a state function or a local function. We need to prioritize and get it done."

And to paraphrase a popular slogan, when seconds count for your child’s safety, the State of Texas is years away.

School busses need seatbelts now because little humans traveling in those large tin cans need seatbelts if something goes wrong. We have heard all the excuses: “The kids won’t wear them,” “You can’t make them,” “They’ll just unbuckle them,” “It’s not cost-effective,” and on and on. None of those excuses is worth the life of a kid. Seatbelts need to be in place.

We are all caused out, and are quite properly suspicious of all the professional made-in-China ceramic ribbon appeals, all the raising-awareness puffery, and all the obviously errant nonsense, such as the idea that pouring a bucket of water over your head will cure a disease. Many of the scandals concerning the alligator-shoe boys and girls in charge of old and famous charities diverting great sums of donated funds to themselves appear to be real.

But here we have an immediate and local challenge which can be met by immediate and local solutions. Each year we all give to assist local school and out-of-school youth programs such as band, FFA, soccer, choir, baseball and softball leagues, and others. Let us add seatbelts to the mix. Seatbelts don’t make music, raise cows, kick field goals, sing prettily, or hit home runs, but they are nifty in their ability to save the lives of the children who do.

Let us look forward to seatbelt barbecues, seatbelt parking-lot sales, seatbelt dinners, seatbelt carwashes, seatbelt raffles, seatbelt bingo games, seatbelt bake sales, and seatbelt something-a-thons, all organized by local people whom we know and trust, not by out-of-town profit-professionals who take a cut.

Seatbelts, as unexciting as they are, are so much happier to think about than grave markers.


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