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INDUSTRY CONNECTIONS: TOP STORY


student behavior. Te district is annually re- placing old buses with new that are installed with lap/shoulder belts to bring the entire fleet into compliance. “Parents got the legislation passed. I was


worried they wouldn’t want students on the buses without lap/shoulder belts. But that didn’t happen. Knock on wood,” she said. She is dealing with middle schoolers who unbuckle, because they didn’t have to wear


them before the law went into effect. In high school training, the students simply say “no.” “Te little kids use them, because they


grew up with them. And it’s helped with behavior,” McDonald said. “I’ve had some teachers say they want the belted buses, because the students were better behaved.” SafeGuard/IMMI interviewed school


districts across the U.S. that have introduced lap-shoulder belts on all school buses. It


found Helena (Mont.) Public Schools to in- corporate what the company found to be the best ideas and methods for implementation. Helena transports approximately 2,500 students on 80 First Student buses equipped with lap/shoulder belts. Te dis- trict developed an enforceable usage policy and communicated it to the community. Trough surveys, Helena has seen a high rate of acceptance. SafeGuard/IMMI has barrier crashed


15 school buses and performed more than 300 sled tests on its seats at its commercial vehicle barrier crash facility, the Center for Advanced Product Evaluation (CAPE). In the past year, CAPE also provided school bus crash research to understand the limits of compartmentalization protection. “No amount of testing will ever be 100


percent sufficient, but there is a point that it can be reasonably concluded that safety will be improved based on available test data and application data,” said Charlie Vits, market development manager for SafeGuard.


NOW WHO’S TO BLAME? Inconsistent policies give litigators much


to argue. Million-dollar lawsuits abound, and they are mostly aimed at manufacturers. “In most instances, the crux of the


plantiff ’s lawsuit hinges on the absence of seat belts or the explicit mention of the lack of lap/shoulder belts on school buses,” said Charles Gauthier, a former NHTSA director and a retired executive director for NASDPTS. “If the school bus is equipped with lap/shoulder belts, then the manufac- turer can breathe easier.” Documented opposition of both seat-belt


varieties can breed more counter productivity. “Advocates need to be more vocal about distinguishing between two-point and three- point belts. Lap belts are profoundly danger- ous, even with some upsides. As a conse- quence with crash tests, no large school bus should contain lap belts,” said Ned Einstein, a consultant with Trans-Alt in New York.


WHAT’S AHEAD Te industry will watch for the results of


a new federal mandate for three-point belts on new motorcoaches that goes into effect in Nov. 28, 2016. New York, New Jersey and Florida may also be pressured to replace their older lap belts on large school buses with new, highly recommended lap/shoulder belts. “It’s inevitable,” said Charlie Hood, the re-


tiring state director at the Florida Department of Education. “It’s been discussed seriously in Florida, but there’s no legislation yet.” 


18 School Transportation News May 2014


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