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ll across the nation, the topic of lap/shoulder seatbelts was a top of seemingly the entire industry’s collective mind this past summer. A new law in Nevada went into effect on July 1, while Iowa announced it was poised to beome the latest state

to require the occupant restraint systems in new buses, a rule that went into effect this month for all new purchases. The seatbelt issue stirred much conversation at the Georgia Association

for Pupil Transportation Conference in June. There, Derek Graham, a transportation consultant and a retired North Carolina state director, per- formed a three-part educational workshop on seatbelts. Graham started with a general education session that introduced the topic of seatbelts and the history of lap/shoulder belts. He reflected with School Transportation News on when the first gener-

ation of school bus lap/shoulder seatbelts came out in 2003, while he was still working at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. At the time, the state rolled out 13 new school buses that were equipped with lap/ shoulder seatbelts, which went into service at 11 school districts. However, the problem was the fixed seating, he recalled. By 2007, seating manufacturers switched to a flexible seating model,

which allowed for three elementary school or two high school students of average size to fit on each bench while wearing three-point seatbelts. “Unfortunately, the loss in [passenger] capacity [argument] is still out there, today. People think that is still an issue,” Graham commented. “And it is not. But that was a big, big issue when these seats first came into the industry.” In 2015, North Carolina started offering lap/shoulder seatbelts as a no-cost

option on replacement buses that it provides districts when an original bus reaches a certain age or mileage. If school districts opt for the three-point belts, they must implement a requirement that students buckle up. Eleven school districts initially signed up for the seatbelts, and Graham said that number has now grown to 15. Two of those districts are Durham Public Schools and Transylvania County Schools. Alan Justice, transportation director for Transylvania County Schools, said his district started opting for the replacement school buses equipped with three-point seatbelts about three to four years ago. The district currently has eight of its 35 school buses equipped with the lap/shoulder seatbelts. “It was an obvious choice,” Justice said. “We want to keep kids safe, and a

big part of it for us was the discipline piece.” Justice said the main reason was to keep “butts in seats.” He added that after the first year, he saw a huge difference in behavior. Students, he said, are now sitting in their seats and are facing forward, not in the aisles. Graham noted that another reason for the shift in three-point seatbelt ac- ceptance is an increased focus by state legislators on student safety. Ohio is one example of a state taking proactive steps in implementing

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SEE US AT BOOTH 250 30 School Transportation News • OCTOBER 2019

lap/shoulder seatbelts on school buses via local legislation. On Aug. 12, the Vermilion City Council passed Ordinance #2019R-8, which approved the Vermilion Local School District to establish a seat belt pilot program. Local media outlets have also reported that the Beachwood City Council passed legislation requiring that seatbelts be in all new school buses. The legislation also allocated $250,000 of city funds to pay for the equipment. In addition to Beachwood City Schools, Avon Lake City Schools also pur- chased new school buses with the lap/shoulder belts.

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