ions changed. They soon began discussions with their school board and school bus contractor Beach Transportation on imple- menting lap/shoulder seatbelts. Terry Phelan, Missoula County’s safety and operations coordi-

nator, agreed. He said that after he watched the documentary, he realized that even though school buses are a very safe mode of transportation, one incident can prompt thoughts from a differ- ent perspective. Rau told School Transportation News that the goal of her doc-

umentary was to inspire strong feelings about school bus safety. She is happy to know that it made a difference, especially since her 4-year-old daughter will soon be attending Missoula County Public Schools. Rau began researching the idea of seatbelts on school buses after learning that her daughter would soon be transported to field trips. “I was driving around, I saw school buses, and I thought, oh,

my daughter is going to start school pretty soon,” Rau said. “They didn’t have [seatbelts] back when I was a kid, in the 1970s and 1980s, so I wonder if they have them now? Then I did some research. I had just assumed they were on the buses at this point, and the fact that they weren’t was shocking to me.” Her documentary followed the failed attempts to get three-point

seatbelt legislation passed in Montana. But the state does require students to buckle up if school districts voluntarily add them. Elsewhere, California, New Jersey, Texas and Nevada have laws

requiring three-point lap/shoulder seatbelts on school buses. Texas, however, allows school districts that do not have enough funding to opt-out of the requirements. Iowa approved a new state regulation this summer that re-

quires all newly-purchased school buses after Oct. 2 be equipped with three-point belts. The state determined that including three- point seatbelts will add $123 per seat to the cost of a new bus. Arkansas’ law on lap/shoulder seatbelts requires local voters to

Lap/shoulder seatbelts were retrofitted onto 30 Missoula County school buses and seven new buses were purchased with the belts already installed. Photo by Terry Phelan.

approve property tax increases to pay for them. New York state allows individual school boards to decide if they will provide lap or lap/shoulder belts on buses—but does not mandate that stu- dents use them.

Build It and They Will Come While many other states are leaving it to local districts to install

of readers have 3-point lap/shoulder seatbelts on some or all of their buses

47% (Out of 129 survey responses.) 32 School Transportation News • OCTOBER 2019

three-point belts, or to continue to rely on the concept of com- partmentation to protect students in front and rear school bus crashes, crash test demonstrations are showing that compart- mentalization might not be enough. That’s especially the case with side-impact or rollover crashes. The Iowa Pupil Transportation Association (IPTA) started advo-

cating for seatbelts to be installed in school buses four years ago. This past February, the members recommended by a unanimous vote that seatbelts be installed in newly purchased school buses. IPTA also published a position paper in support of the occupant restraints. At its annual conference in July, IPTA built its own field of

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