Last week I wrote a simple letter to the editor of the Hamilton Spectator about school buses. It essentially said that discussing seatbelts on buses misses the boat - they have no benefit.
I listed three more important factors about bus safety - excessive need for busing, obsolete frame/suspension technology unsuitable for freeway use and diesel engine emissions.
Then out of the blue this rant response appears in the Spec letters page with the requisite ad hominem attacks and an expert opinion that bus design is very safe and their diesel engines are clean and there are other more important causes of crashes.
There's not getting it. Then there's not getting it and writing a resentful letter to the paper. And then there's really not getting it such that you can't identify that someone else didn't get it and then you proudly publish said letter in a box at the top of the letters section.
So to answer the rant:
Clearly, less busing = less risk. Especially less fat kids and less future heart attacks.
You don't have to be an engineer or mechanic to see that there is a difference between a coach and a school bus at 120 km/h. One is smooth, the other is bouncing psychotically. That's because of leaf springs, unadjustable shocks, high unsprung weight...
Oh, forget it. According to Bob Brown, "It's clear he knows nothing about heavy-duty suspension systems". You don't need to. Watch the back end of the damned bus bouncing around and ask yourself if this is a good thing for traction and control.
Diesel exhaust is a large contributor to particulate pollution (PM) even in areas like Hamilton with heavy industry. These pie charts do not correct for the fact that vehicle tailpipes are right beside your nose, while the other sources are far away.
There are no current clean diesels in school buses or anything else. If you doubt this, follow a school bus on your bike for ten minutes as close as you can get to the exhaust pipe, which is at nose level unlike any other large bus or truck. Try not to vomit.
Six children died in school bus crashes in a ten year period. Compare with roughly 3000 fatalities yearly in Canada, typically 100 in the 5-14 age group. So of course there are more important things like the distraction of cell phones and eating. (Then again, people you see driving and eating are not weaving all over the road oblivious to their surroundings like the cell phone users.)
People like Mr. Brown can be forgiven for missing the boat and defending obsolete engineering. But the Spec?
I thought my letter was pretty clear and pretty benign. Read the response: bizarre and angry. The Spec put it right on top, totally unconcerned with either the irrelevance or the mean-spirited content.
Could the Spec be publishing it for spite? What do you think?
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