Where Are The Seat Belts?

p>One of the most frequently asked questions that concerned parents have is, "why are there no Seat belts on the school bus"? Here are some answers to this very important question.

Safe transportation of children while traveling to and from home and school is matter of concern to all involved - parents and students, school officials, transportation companies and government agencies. Over the years in Canada, much of this transportation has been on school buses which have been specifically designed for this purpose and which must meet 35 federal and provincial government safety standards. In addition to these equipment standard, provincial and territorial governments and school boards have adopted various measures for driver qualification and training, special rules of the road for school buses and training of pupils on how to use school buses safely.

Transport Canada has conducted extensive school bus collision tests with mannequins retrained in lap-only belts and unrestrained mannequins. The purpose of these test was to observe the movement of the dummies within the vehicle during a frontal collision. The tests consisted of a crash into a barrier at a speed of approximately 48 km/h (30 mph) to simulate a severe frontal collision.

These tests revealed that the use of lap belts may result in more severe head and neck injuries for belted than unbelted occupants in a severe frontal collision. Unbelted mannequins moved forward during the collision hitting the seat in front with their necks, chest and head, whereas the belted mannequins tended to jack-knife and hit the seat in front with the full force on their heads alone.

The stringent standards for school bus seats are based on exhaustive testing conducted in the U.S. and Canada. Occupant protection is provided by containing students between high-backed, heavily padded, closely spaced seats. A high, padded barrier replaced the old front row of seats. These features are part of a concept collectively referred to as "compartmentalization." In other words, by giving the occupants a relatively confined environment to move in, and ensuring the padding within that environment is thick enough to absorb the pressure of impacts when required, injuries are kept to a minimum.

Your child is 16 times safer riding on the school bus than he/she would be riding in a car. This conclusion is based on a comparison of the injury rates per passenger-kilometer of travel for school bus occupants versus all motor vehicle occupants. This estimate assumes that school buses carried an average of 20 occupants per vehicle, while all other motor vehicles carried an average of two per vehicle.

The conclusions to date, of testing and in-depth accident investigations both in Canada and the U.S., suggest the unique (to school buses) seat spacing and padding requirements and other factors such as the relatively large size of the buses, result in very few fatalities or serious injuries. Transport Canada also states that the passive occupant protection provided by the stronger seat functions as intended and provides excellent protection for occupants.

*This information is taken from Transport Canada's Background Paper on School Bus Occupant Protection in Canada, January 1990.