Tat may sound strange coming from me, but I’m not for laws [mandating lap- shoulder seat belts]. Te government has a tendency to mandate things to us and then they don’t fund them. Tat would not be fair [especially] for schools that

are smaller.” —Robert Downin, Clark-Pleasant Community Schools in Whiteland, Indiana

larger students or three smaller students to wear the seat belts without any ad- ditional hardware or seating configuration. “For us it’s been a positive just from a student management standpoint, and it does add that extra degree of safety, it helps parents feel better about their student riding in the bus,” he said.

CHANGING TRADITIONS Perhaps the biggest concern is that students, especially older ones who didn’t

grow up with bus seat belts, will unbuckle during the ride—negating any safety benefits and creating a discipline conundrum for drivers. Carroll noted that, ironically, since his district can’t afford to buy enough new buses with seat belts, every year a new group of students starts riding old buses without belts. Tis means it will be that much harder for them to get used to buckling up on school buses down the road. “Te biggest problem is kids don’t wear them,” Carroll said. “We think we’ll see that culture change but it will be over time, as younger kids get on the bus wearing seat belts. Older kids who traditionally have not been exposed to that are extremely noncompliant. And that does create a little increase in discipline issues because now when we see a kid that doesn’t have a seat belt on, we have to discipline them.” But IMMI’s Vits said there is a greater issue at play. “Te problem is that the school districts are not really providing the support to the school transportation departments needed to enforce usage policies,” he explained. Debbie Greene, a former bus driver and now transportation enrollment direc- tor for an Ohio Head Start program, said the belts are not a problem on small buses with attendants, but they do pose a bigger challenge on regular large buses. “My first question would be: Whose responsibility is it to make sure kids are buck- led, and if they become unbuckled whose responsibility is that, and if they become unbuckled when you’re going down the road what do you do?” she explained. Barry Brooks, supervisor of purchasing and transportation for Minot Public Schools in North Dakota, said drivers usually can’t see whether kids are actually wearing their belts. He said this is because school buses are still built with high seat-backs meant to provide compartmentalization—keeping students safe and within the padded seating compartment even without belts. However, the National Transportation Safety Board and seating manufacturers, such as IMMI, have found

SMART Tag is the premier on-bus tablet solution for student ridership management with pre/post-trip inspection, fleet GPS and e-messaging. The user-friendly rugged tablet and RFID cards help ensure students ride the correct bus, get off at the right stop and are not left on the bus. Offering guardian check for Pre-K/SPED riders, SHARS reports, and integration with your existing routing and maintenance software. Fleet visibility and student info is accessed through our secure web portals for ISDs, campuses and parents.

“SMART tag truly is a magnificent leap in student transportation… the tablet does so much it's actually unbelievable.”

Josh Rice

Dir. of Transportation New Caney ISD, TX 512.686.2360 49

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