NASDPTS endorses lap/shoulder belts
McLEAN, Va. — The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) says it would support the installation of lap/shoulder belts on school buses if funding were made available.
The state directors association's endorsement of lap/shoulder belts came in a position paper released in late August. In the paper, the association noted that "the American public expects school buses to be as safe as possible," and that "the public believes lap/shoulder belts should be installed in all new school buses."
However, the association also aired concerns about the cost of the systems, reduction of design capacity and the possible misuse or non-use of the belts.
When coupled with the additional cost of meeting new requirements for school bus body joint strength, installation of lap/shoulder belts could result in school districts buying fewer new buses and requiring more children to travel to school in less safe ways, the association said.
In addition, these new buses would have reduced design capacity. That is, an existing bus designed for 77 students would only be able to transport 60 in a bus with lap/shoulder belts. As the association points out, the reduction in in-use capacity might be less than the reduction in design capacity. However, it's almost certain that some students would be displaced because of the lower design capacity of lap/shoulder belt-equipped buses.
Because of these concerns, the association added: "Unless sufficient funding is made available to address all areas of school bus safety and pupil transportation safety [including all modes of travel to school], the association believes the same funds may be used in other areas of school bus and pupil transportation with greater potential safety benefits."
The paper also noted that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) research on school bus occupant protection did not produce a mandate for lap/shoulder belts. Rather, the four-year study concluded that, with widespread and proper use, lap/shoulder belts might prevent one death per year. "Based on the NHTSA study, it appears that the installation of lap/shoulder belts in school buses would provide small, incremental safety benefits," the paper said.
The paper also discussed the findings of a study by the National Research Council comparing the safety of the various modes of travel to and from school. The study, "The Relative Risks of School Travel: A National Perspective and Guidance for Local Community Risk Assessment," confirmed what people in the school bus community have known for a long time — that school buses are the safest transportation mode for school travel.
The association said that the two studies "provide strong evidence that decisions about school bus safety and pupil transportation safety must be made in concert." Adequate funding, the paper added, "is the bottom line to improvements in both areas."
To read the full text of the paper, "Enhancing School Bus Safety and Pupil Transportation Safety," visit http://www.nasdpts.org/topics.html.
NHTSA to review safety vest rule
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has granted a petition by Connie Murray, president of E-Z-ON Products in Jupiter, Fla., requesting that NHTSA amend FMVSS 213 to allow the use of seat-mounted child restraint systems on school buses.
Murray and staff members met with NHTSA officials to lobby for a change in the federal safety standard which, in a strict reading, prohibits the use of safety harnesses that attach to the seatback.
NHTSA's agreement to consider the request does not mean that it will amend the standard, but does suggest that the request appears to have merit, according to Stephen Kratzke, NHTSA's associate administrator for safety performance standards.