The Free Press, Mankato, MN

September 27, 2011

Ask a trooper: Why not seatbelts in school buses?

By Sgt. Jaclyn Sticha
Minnesota State Patrol

If we are so keen on seatbelts why don’t we put them in school buses?

 

Full size school buses are the safest form of transportation for our children:  Children are 8 tiems more likely to be in a crash when riding in vehicles other than the school bus. 

Full size school buses are big, heavy and designed to take the brunt of a crash. The chassis separates from the body of the bus to slow and disperse the crash forces and minimizes the possibility of rolling – which is extremely dangerous and violent!  

Again, a school bus is big, orange and we know our children are on board and we seem to alert to this well, reacting with our best driving behavior. 

A full size school bus uses Compartmentalization.This system uses seats which are strong, high, energy absorbing and closely spaced to keep our children safer during a crash, liken it to an egg carton. 

For Compartmentalization to work the children need to be sitting on their rears, upright - back to seat and forward facing.  Three persons in a seat is only allowed if all three rears are completely on the seat, again, facing forward with no parts hanging out into the aisle. 

There are some very credible areas of concern regarding lap and shoulder belts installed in full sized school buses: Could it reduce the safety already inherent in our full size school buses, who would get all the kids in and buckled properly, how would the lap and shoulder belts be maintained and, if a belt system was used, maintained correctly, is it safer than Compartmentalization

 

Statistically it is safer for them to be on a full size school bus than in their family vehicle.  

 

Remind your bus driver not to pull away until all children have sat down and to make sure exiting children have cleared the bus before pulling away.

Safety is always more important than keeping a schedule.   Children should forgo loose accessories and clothing that can get caught in the door of the bus.  Finally, insist your child uses the hand rails in and out of the bus, the steps are steep and irregular; tripping and falling onto concrete can cause injury or death. 

 

Parents - Children need to be respectful, quiet and always remain seated on the bus.  A bus driver’s job is to DRIVE; they should not be maintaining order or discipline and should have minimal distractions.  

Parents need to be clear that their student’s behavior is their responsibility.  They need to react appropriately and promptly to notice about their child’s behavior while on the bus.      

Tragedy more often occurs outside the school bus.  

A bus is high and can block the view of the driver and the drivers of other vehicles.  Children need to give the bus a wide berth, moving outside of the driver’s blind spots. When crossing or moving in front of the school bus a child should be far enough ahead to see the driver’s face, thus the driver can see them.

Have your child stop at the edge of the bus and look for traffic, as well as pausing at each lane of traffic.  

A driver cannot see them if they cannot see the driver.  Do not allow them to solely rely on other’s direction to cross; they need to be sure themselves and never assume a driver will stop just because they are approaching the crosswalk or an extended stop arm.