BRITISH COLUMBIA — A school bus driver here recently started a petition calling to make seat belts on school buses mandatory after he watched a news story on a school bus safety report that had been found to be flawed.
Gary Lillico came across an investigative report in October 2018 on CBC’s “The Fifth Estate” about a study from Transport Canada that reached the conclusion that school bus safety features were insufficient in preventing injuries, Vancouver Sun reports. The conclusion was apparently based on a flawed study from 1984, according to the CBC story.
Soon after, Lillico created an online petition demanding that Transport Canada require three-point seat belts on school buses. The petition, which addresses Transport Minister Marc Garneau, begins with Lillico pointing out that he is a school bus driver and “the only one to buckle up” on his bus.
Lillico also notes in the petition that the results of the previously unreleased 2010 Transport Canada test crash study, which weren’t made public until the CBC show aired, concluded that more action is needed to lessen or eliminate serious injuries and that Transport Canada’s chief of crashworthiness research said seat belts are “a good first step” in boosting school bus safety. He also pointed to the several states in the U.S. that require seat belts on school buses, and suggested that Canada can do the same.
“Liability laws for school boards, schools, and drivers in the USA have been implemented and are working nicely,” Lillico’s petition states.
He added that Canada has already borrowed from regulations on seat belt installation on school buses from the U.S. for recommendations, so “we only need to legislate usage to law.”
Since Lillico posted the petition, Transport Canada has posted on its website that, if installed and used correctly, seat belts offer “added protection for school-age children.”
Transport Canada also states on its website that “seat belts on school buses can offer another layer of safety to complement the existing, highly effective protection provided by compartmentalization” but when not used correctly, they “could have a negative impact on safety.” The website also notes that ensuring that a bus full of students is properly buckled up is a much greater challenge than doing so in a car or minivan.
At press time, Lillico’s petition had gotten more than 96,000 signatures, with a goal of receiving 150,000.