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October 25, 2013  |   Comments (13)   |   Post a comment

NASDPTS bolsters support for lap-shoulder belts

By Thomas McMahon


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NASDPTS’ new position fully supports lap-shoulder belts for school buses, having decided to drop a clause that made the support contingent on funding being provided.

NASDPTS’ new position fully supports lap-shoulder belts for school buses, having decided to drop a clause that made the support contingent on funding being provided.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The state directors association on Monday strengthened its position in support of lap-shoulder belts for school buses.

Previously, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) had gone on the record to support lap-shoulder belts if funding is made available for them. But that statement had begun to seem inconsequential considering economic conditions.

“All of us know that funding is not currently generally available, and I doubt anyone thinks it will become available anytime in the near future,” NASDPTS President Max Christensen said. “Thus our position really seemed to be a ‘non-position.’”

At the association’s conference in Grand Rapids, the NASDPTS board decided to bolster its support for the three-point restraints by dropping the funding clause from its position.

“As of today, NASDPTS fully supports the installation and use of lap-shoulder belts in school buses, period, with no ifs, ands or buts,” Christensen said on Monday.

However, the board noted that it should be left up to school districts whether to equip their buses with the restraints.

“We are not recommending the installation and use, nor are we asking that lap-shoulder belts be required,” Christensen said. “We believe this should be a local decision based on local need.”

NASDPTS’ position papers on the topic will be updated to reflect the new position.

Seat belts on school buses has been a contentious topic in the industry for several decades, but Christensen said that the NASDPTS board felt it was time to take “a true leadership position” on the issue.


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Read more about: Michigan, NASDPTS, seat belts


If this idea ever becomes law, who will be held liable when a youngster unbuckles his seat belt during the ride (while the driver is looking to the front) and there's an accident...the driver? Seat belts are fine but they must be done up to work properly and the driver simply cannot watch 72 seat belts to ensure they buckled while trying to navigate the road safely. In todays age it's all about liability and I can envision driver's refusing to drive because they don't want to accept this particular liability. Could be some bumpy times ahead.

Scott Partridge    |    Feb 14, 2014 07:10 AM

"...with no ifs, ands or buts,” sounds great until reading the next few paragraphs. The assertion from some commentators that anyone who supports seat belts on school buses has never driven a school bus, borders on the ridiculous. Over twenty years driving school bus myself and have fully supported their installation for most of my career behind the wheel. There seems to be a majority of providers and bus drivers that actually have the safety device installed on their school buses to also support their installation. It is going to be interesting to follow how the NASDPTS is going to retrain the mindset of their bus drivers previously trained to think against installation.

jkraemer    |    Jan 16, 2014 12:32 PM

There is a demand for three-point seatbelts on buses, and I'm a big proponent of the technology as a choice for increased safety. Passengers should have a choice to not need to hang onto their seats and to whatever is in their laps when the bus is going over a bumpy road or making a sharp turn, and to not have to worry about being thrown from their seats if the driver needs to brake or swerve. Seatbelts make the ride more comfortable, enough to sleep soundly knowing that you'll stay in your seat even if there is an emergency on the road. When seatbelts are installed on high-backed seats, there is also a dramatic reduction in noise, from the road and conversations of various intensities. Talking down the length of the bus is basically cut off unless you stand up or lean into the aisle. There's also less interaction between rows of seats because the visibility is cut off, in addition to being hard to hear anybody outside of the seating compartment. I've had to lean forward and get up over the seatback just to talk to someone in front of me, and we were both fairly tall. Conversation was practically impossible without leaning forward, because the sound bounces back or is absorbed by the seats. Because of this applied across the length of a bus, the noise level inside the bus is reduced, and combined with better behavior as a result of students not being able to jump between seats, what was once a noisy and out-of-control bus full of improperly-seated riders becomes something much more manageable and safer.

Alexander Rogge    |    Dec 12, 2013 05:59 AM

FUD #6: Active seatbelt "enforcement" is possible, but that increases cost and requires more bus modifications, and is likely to cause resistance from the students. It's easier to say "If you're out of your seat, you're breaking the no-standing rule, and you'll get an assigned seat if I have to tell you again." Seatbelt usage should not be something that is forced onto students, nor should there be exceptions made that could mean potential embarrassment for some students who are forced to use the seatbelts while others are exempted. Seatbelt usage as a rule should apply to everybody on the bus. I just cringe when I see one of the new buses rolling down the road with the fancy seatbelt systems, and the biggest group of unbuckled violators are the adult passengers sitting in the first three rows of seats, which is where you're most likely to suffer injuries as a result of being thrown from your seat during a frontal or side impact. The seatbelts were designed for children and adults; please use the seatbelts as they were intended.

Alexander Rogge    |    Dec 12, 2013 05:58 AM

FUD #5: Seatbelts aren't necessary in any bus, until they are. A bus route that goes around congested city streets at slow speeds, picking up passengers here and there along the way, may never need seatbelts. In fact, it should be safe to stand and sit backwards while the bus is moving, city-bus style, because the probability of a severe collision or a necessity to swerve is very low. The probability of a safety problem increases, however, when dealing with denser traffic conditions around at-grade intersections, curved or hilly roads that offer limited-visibility, and areas with a prevalence of bad drivers or large animals that may be in the way of the bus. When hard braking and other evasive actions are frequently necessary because of stupid drivers who do things like block the passing lane to the left of the bus and then swerve in front of the bus to make a right-turn or exit lane, seatbelts are a welcome addition to a bus seat. If you choose not to buckle up, then you could be thrown from your seat, possibly being injured in the process. I have had this experience several times in the last two years due to stupid drivers running red lights or trying to turn right from the left lane and stopping perpendicular to the path of the bus; those who were wearing seatbelts stayed seated and held onto their bookbags or other belongings, while those who weren't and those who were sitting sideways ended up being thrown around. Seatbelts are a choice, and they are a smart choice in areas where highway safety problems are common.

Alexander Rogge    |    Dec 12, 2013 05:58 AM

FUD #4: People who argue for seatbelts are indeed bus drivers. Just because you may have 30 years of experience doesn't mean that your experience with driving is the same as everyone else, nor does it mean that you've tried and failed to use three-point seatbelts. What you have is an argument that relies on FUD combined with a perception of discipline problems, which is normalized to say that "It would be worse if I had seatbelts of any type." Adding three-point seatbelts actually reduces behavior problems, in addition to improving safety, which is the primary intent of the technology. I've recently tried to deal with a bus full of 1st Graders through 3rd Graders, and almost nobody would sit still for more than five seconds. They don't understand what "sit down" means, and there was no way to keep them seated without a seatbelt system, so they were jumping up, switching seats, crawling on the floor, turning around backwards, and leaning out the windows. It's much easier with the seatbelt system because children tend to understand that they're not supposed to get up once you tell them that they need to stay in their seatbelts, and those who continue to do the disruptions can be dealt with individually, without the bus-wide disruptions from hyperactive children who can't seem to sit still.

Alexander Rogge    |    Dec 12, 2013 05:58 AM

FUD #3: Seatbelt usage isn't something that the driver needs to be checking on an individual per-seat basis every day. Seatbelts on buses are a luxury item, just as they were on cars earlier in automotive history. If you don't use them, then that's your loss, but don't use FUD to tell everybody else that they can't have seatbelts because a few have abused them or refused to use them. The goal is to make seatbelt usage normal and not a stigma, so that those who don't use them become the outliers as it is with seatbelt usage in personal cars today. Even if someone forgets or deliberately refuses to buckle up while remaining seated, that doesn't dramatically diminish safety for everyone else on the bus.

Alexander Rogge    |    Dec 12, 2013 05:57 AM

FUD #2: Seatbelts on a bus seat are not weapons. This argument goes back to when lapbelts were being used by a few students to hit people on the bus, but the blame should be placed on the abuser, not the seatbelt, whether the abuser is using a seatbelt buckle or a fist. Anyone who abuses the seatbelts should be told to stop it or find another ride to school. If you can't get compliance over seatbelt usage, then you're doing something wrong or you have a problem that can't be confronted with reasoning. Three-point seatbelts are not like the old pull-to-tighten lapbelts from decades ago, or even the retracting lapbelts that would be difficult to swing if you let go of the combination buckle with retracting mechanism. You can't extend the three-point seatbelt far enough to be useful for hitting with the seatbelt buckle, and on seats that have keyed buckles, the seatbelts also won't buckle across the bus aisle even if you could extend them that far. Another reason that these seatbelts are not weapons is because the riders, children on up, are not violent inmates. If you have students who do figure out how to strangle each other with seatbelts, they'll probably figure out how to use fists and knives too. I have one such example of a student who put a knife around a girl's throat while she was in the seat in front of him, but these are unusual examples that should not apply to a regular bus route. Violent students should not be on the schoolbus; they should be behind a locked door in juvenile detention. Seatbelts are the least of your worries if you have a violent rider behind you, and you need to speak up before a weapon is pulled or there's a beating on the bus.

Alexander Rogge    |    Dec 12, 2013 05:57 AM

There's a bunch of FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt) that has been spread about seatbelts on buses for several decades, and I want to address some of these concerns. The old arguments never seem to die, from the "compartmentalization is good enough" to "seatbelts are weapons", despite all of the improvements made to address the shortcomings of lapbelts on buses. FUD #1: Seatbelts do not reduce seating capacity, unless you are doing something unorthodox like putting more than three children or two teens/adults per seat. While it's sometimes fun to get into a pile in the back of the bus and cram six kids into one seat, you shouldn't be driving while this is going on. There is an advertisement form SynTec on the sidebar of this page that demonstrates why this FUD is clearly false. Seatbelts can be installed as 1, 2, or 3 buckles per regular bench-seat. FUD #2: Seatbelts on a bus seat are not weapons. This argument goes back to when lapbelts were being used by a few students to hit people on the bus, but the blame should be placed on the abuser, not the seatbelt, whether the abuser is using a seatbelt buckle or a fist. Anyone who abuses the seatbelts should be told to stop it or find another ride to school. If you can't get compliance over seatbelt usage, then you're doing something wrong or you have a problem that can't be confronted with reasoning. Three-point seatbelts are not like the old pull-to-tighten lapbelts from decades ago, or even the retracting lapbelts that would be difficult to swing if you let go of the combination buckle with retracting mechanism. You can't extend the three-point seatbelt far enough to be useful for hitting with the seatbelt buckle, and on seats that have keyed buckles, the seatbelts also won't buckle across the bus aisle even if you could extend them that far. Another reason that these seatbelts are not weapons is because the riders, children on up, are not violent inmates. If you have students who do figure out how to str

Alexander Rogge    |    Dec 12, 2013 05:55 AM

Ditto on Carol's comment. Not only are seat belts weapons, but by adding seat belts, you restrict the numbers of students from three to two. This means more buses and drivers. I know my district does not have deep pockets. Keep it up people who don't know bussing. Also by the way how do you check to see if students have their belts on when under our law,(Vermont) you are not to get out of you seat. And yes, I have been in only two districts not even 20 miles away and in completing my 40th year in bus transportation and the changes that have been made to buses, seat belts are not needed in large buses.

Bob Magee    |    Nov 05, 2013 06:26 AM

I wish the article would have been more in depth on this important topic. Why does NASDPTS feel that lap shoulder belts are a good idea? What are their ideas on how someone would enforce students to wear the belts? There is a lot of left to wonder on this issue!

Max Hall    |    Oct 31, 2013 08:30 AM

As a Driver Instructor in the Washington DC Metropolitan area, I agree with Carol Mathews. It will be a disaster waiting to happen.

Tati Pittenger    |    Oct 30, 2013 04:05 AM

Anyone who supports seat belts on School Busses has never driven a School Bus. First of all, there is no way to enforce the use and with older students they would be a weapon and cause a whole new set of issues for the driver. Having them in a few of the front seats, for Pre-K's or Kindergartners, can be very useful, but the whole bus would be a nightmare. I have driven a School Bus for 32 yrs., so I am speaking from major experience.

Carole Mathews    |    Oct 29, 2013 12:05 PM

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