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Unbuckled

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Jody Vance: We make sure car drivers and passengers buckle up – because the statistics are clear that it’s much safer. So why not for kids on school buses?

As I see it, there is no middle in this week’s The Middle, but it’s both an urgent topic, and a gobsmacker that we even need to discuss this.

So: buckle up.

At issue is the political football being juggled, fumbled, about the need to “study”, “consult” or “research” whether seatbelts should be mandatory in school buses.

Given the history and stats behind BC seatbelt laws, this is right up there with some of the craziest wastes of taxpayer time, money, and risk to kids one can think of.

Here’s a refresher. Seatbelts became mandatory in vehicles in BC in 1977; in 1983 actually buckling up in the front seat was made mandatory; and in 1991 it became compulsory for back seat passengers to also wear seatbelts.

Everybody, in every vehicle, strapped in for safety.

Remember seatbelt check stops?

Fast forward decades. It’s 2019, we’ve taken steps to ensure car drivers and passengers are safe – but we’re debating whether or not our kids should be safe on the school bus?

My head explodes. We’ve all watched ghastly videos of kids tossed around school buses in accidents. They become projectiles. Isn’t that study enough?

Where’s the push back on this coming from? Who lobbies against seatbelts in school buses? Who? Is this about money? What’s the real cost? Wouldn’t saving just one child not be worth paying all of that, up front?

Seriously. End of study?

Here’s why I’m so seatbelt passionate.

Mere days after the seatbelt law passed in 1983, a friend visited from Alberta, which had no seatbelt laws. I was 15 years old, but Allan was of driving age, and my folks let him pilot our mustard yellow Cordova. I will never forget this: when we hopped into our vehicle of freedom, I looked to my left and said “buckle up Allan — it’s the law here.”

Two hours later, we were t-boned by a drunk driver. Those seatbelts saved our lives.

We were “centre-punched” and sent hurling into a big tree. BANG! All three of us in the car would have been sent through the front windshield – I know this, because first responders said so. We didn’t see it coming, we had no time to react, and it could well have been game over.

I can still hear the buzz of the radio knocked off its dial position coupled with the smell of gasoline. I remember thinking “we are going to blow up.”

It was dark and scary. I will always be incredibly grateful for the seatbelt law because of this random night with my friend from seatbelt-free Alberta. Thanks to seatbelts, we all walked away.

Why on earth are there not already seatbelts in school busses carrying our kids? The “rarity” of accidents excuse is lame, at best. That’s not good enough.

Put them in. Require kids to buckle up. Most of them do it instinctively; show me a parent who doesn’t strap in their kids. Gone are the days where we would hop in the back of a pickup — we don’t even allow dogs to do that today. We have learned. The stats do not lie.

Yes, I’m militant on seatbelts because of my experience in 1983. I also have skin in this game in my newly minted 12-year-old who loves a field trip. I hold my breath each time he hops in the big yellow bus.

This is not helicopter parenting, this is a serious call out to government officials to do the right thing on seatbelts and make them mandatory in school buses — NOW.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.

SWIM ON:

SWIM ON