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He noted that parents today have grown up with


seatbelts in cars, so they expect it on the buses. But older generations tend to have an opposite viewpoint. Instead, these parents or grandparents put more trust into the construction and proven safety record of the school bus. Echoing the concerns of many in the industry, Dan-


iels said he worries about a school bus ending up in the water and a student or the school bus driver becoming trapped in the seatbelts. “Several years ago [around 2003], we had a bus roll


over with elementary students, and the bus did not have lap belts,” Daniels recalled. “The driver was trapped in the seatbelt and couldn’t get out to assist. The students evacuated out the back door. The video showed a good example of the safety of the bus inside with compart- mentalization and with the bus itself, as no windows even broke or fell out, and the bus shell did not cave.” But NTSB has repeatedly cited its school bus in-


vestigations that show students are more apt to successfully unbuckle and make their way to an evacuation door or hatch, when they are restrained in seatbelts and experience as little trauma as possible during the impact.


In an FAQ at stnonline.com/seat-belt-resources, Na-


tional Child Passenger Safety Board member Charles Vits points out that students who ride school buses equipped with lap/shoulder belts should be trained on buckling and unbuckling as well as evacuation drills that prepare students on how to free themselves from their seats and follow their driver’s instructions during an emergency. Rick Martin, director of transportation for Washoe


County School District in Reno, Nevada, also shared concerns, especially regarding sitting three larger stu- dents to a seat comfortably and how tight the restraints are on larger “burly” students. “Unfortunately, they are not one-size fits all types of


things,” Martin said. “With some of our larger students, it’s a little tight for them. So, we have had some rubbing on the shoulder, just because they are big and it’s not conducive to their size.” Vits also notes in the STN FAQ that the safety of larger


students who already sit with their feet in the aisle may be compromised without the presence of seatbelts be- cause they are not fully seated within the compartment of the high seatbacks. The issue becomes one of routing, Vits adds. The flexible seating technology, or fitting three


38 School Transportation News • MAY 2020


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