Haynes is an Assembly member representing Riverside and
He serves on the Appropriations and Budget Committees. [go to
Assembly Member Haynes
website at California Assembly][go to Haynes index]
Liberal politicians plagued with complete ignorance...
well. They really do. Unlike accusations I’ve
heard lodged against conservatives over the years, I really don’t
believe my liberal colleagues are trying to kill children, or
even that they don’t care if children die. In fact, I believe
that much of what they are trying to do is sincerely aimed at
saving and helping children and consumers, homeless people and
sick people, puppies and fairy shrimp, and all those other nice
things liberals are known to care about.
Unfortunately, most of the liberals I know are
plagued with a complete ignorance of basic economics. As such,
they are not
very good at predicting how the real world will react to their
well-intentioned mandates and programs. A current example of
this sort of fuzzy-headed thinking is the new “safe school
bus” mandate that takes effect July 1st. This extremely
well meaning new law will require that all new school buses have
lap-shoulder seat belts. Since we have all gotten used to the
idea of being required to wear seat belts in our cars, it seemed
strange to them that the one place kids do not have to wear seatbelts
(and in fact couldn’t even if they wanted to) was in the
government-provided buses that take our children to their government-provided
schools. It seemed like a no-brainer that we should start providing
these seat belts in school buses, too, right? Well, politically,
yes. Practically, no.
All else being equal, wearing seat belts is safer
than not wearing seat belts. But all else is rarely equal.
First of all, buses
are already extremely safe. In fact they are by far the safest
way for children to get to school today. On average 5-7 children
per year are killed nationwide while riding on a school bus.
But then, there is the cliché “If it saves just
one life, isn’t it worth it?”
As always, the reality is trickier than that. There is good
evidence that while the seat belt mandate may slightly decrease
the number of deaths on board those particular new buses, it
will actually increase the number of school children killed overall!
The new buses are expected to cost thousands
of dollars more per bus. But more importantly cost-wise, they
would carry 1/3
fewer students. That means schools will have to spend significantly
more money to update their bus fleets, and hire more drivers
to drive the extra buses required to carry the same student load
as before. The schools continually complain of the shortage in
school funding. That shortage is even more critical in school
transportation funding. Some school districts have completely
discontinued bus services, and many more are considering it.
Many districts already charge families a fee for their children
to ride the bus, and this would cause that cost to rise. In many
school districts a child must already live a certain distance
from the school in order to qualify for bus service—up
to five miles in many districts. It is certain that there will
be districts that will have to further restrict or cancel their
bus services entirely rather than pay for the newer, “safer” buses,
which will carry fewer students per bus.
What does that mean? More children will be forced
to walk, or to ride to school in private automobiles. Both
far less safe than an “unsafe” school bus. The school
bus fatality rate on the current bus fleet is .01 or less per
100,000 population. Walking to school results in 10 times
the fatalities, as does driving with an adult in a private vehicle.
Riding to school in a car driven by someone younger than 21 (e.g.
an older sibling or a friend) is 30 times more dangerous than
riding a so-called “unsafe” bus!!!
Because more children will be forced to seek
an alternative means to get to school, there is no doubt in
my mind that more
children will be put in harms way by this mandate than will be
saved. The unintended consequences of this law will be some kids
riding marginally safer buses, while many more kids will be subjected
to much less safe rides to school. While I’m sure the liberals
who passed this feel-good, sounds-good bill thought they were
doing a good thing, their lack of understanding of the realities
of economics and the decisions that have to be made as a result
of their mandates will almost certainly CAUSE MORE CHILDREN TO
DIE!!! But that’s not the point. After all, they meant
Haynes is a California Assembleyman representing Riverside
and Temecula and frequent contributor to CaliforniaRepublic.org.