Sitting here tonight, working on creating more DGMS Christmas magic for children. I took a brief break to check in on the news of the day and what I found is heartbreaking.
In Tennessee, an ordinary school day turned deadly when two school buses collided, killing an adult aide and two little girls.
In all, 23 children were transported to area hospitals for treatment. Honestly, in viewing the wreckage, I am surprised that number isn't far higher.
While my daughters have never been school bus riders - I always preferred to drive them - it stymies me that a school bus today is still the same school bus I rode in 40 years ago.
Rows of metal, lightly padded seats. That's it, that's all.
Technology has been utilized to advance every area of our lives from the cars we drive to how we communicate to how we cook our food, yet the vehicles we trust to carry our most precious cargo remains unchanged.
We pass laws making seatbelt usage mandatory - Click it or Ticket - yet in every state where I would be stopped and served with a hefty fine, children ride unrestrained to and from school daily.
Arguments state that school buses are safe based on their design. "Compartmentalization," meaning the seats are close together and padded, allows for a child to be flung a short distance into a makeshift airbag. Sorry, I don't buy that. Again, I have been on school buses in recent years for field trips and that "airbag" is nothing but a metal frame with the equivalent of Nerf foam around it. Hell, I'd wager Nerf foam is actually thicker.
Further defense of keeping-things-the-way-they-are includes the occupants sitting high up off the road and away from possible impact. Yeah, unless another school bus Ts it and flips it on its side. Or it hits a concrete retaining wall or overpass. All deadly scenarios that have played out.
And then, of course, comes the money argument. Estimates bandied about are $8,000 - $15,000 to outfit each school bus with seatbelts. I can only assume those seatbelts they priced are woven from rare eagle feathers and the buckles made of gold.
All of these arguments are cold comfort tonight to the parents of two dead children, and the parents of nearly two dozen more who are injured, frightened, and traumatized in Tennessee hospitals.
I realize there are hurdles to any advancements, changes in any arena of life. Logistics, economics, training, behavior modification all come into play.
But if we can progress to the point where we now all carry miniature computers/phone/cameras in our back pockets, surely we can drag school bus safety into the new millennium, too?
Because right now? We are failing our children.