WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is looking to learn more about local decision-making when it comes to seat belts for school buses.
NHTSA announced the project and asked for comments in a Federal Register notice in December. The national industry associations responded with individual comments that included suggestions on how NHTSA might glean the most useful information.
Among the recommendations for the project were the inclusion of school districts that have decided not to equip their buses with belts (NHTSA’s original notice specified “school districts who have implemented seat belts on school buses”) and the need to make a clear distinction between seat belt types — i.e., lap belts and lap-shoulder belts. Both of those points were reflected in communications about the project that were sent to the national associations and the large school bus manufacturers earlier this month.
“NHTSA seeks to understand the decision-making process facing school districts when considering whether to implement and how to implement 2-point lap belts and 3-point lap-shoulder belts on school buses,” John Marshall, director of NHTSA’s safety programs division, wrote in a May 4 letter to the American School Bus Council.
NHTSA awarded a contract for the project to ToXcel LLC, which is working with researchers from North Carolina State University and consultant Derek Graham, who retired from his role as North Carolina’s state pupil transportation director at the end of February.
Bryan Katz, vice president of engineering for ToXcel, said in a separate letter that the study “seeks to interview a representative selection of school districts related to seat belts on school buses — including those that have and have not implemented and/or required seat belt use.”
The researchers sent a data-gathering form to the national associations to distribute to their members.
In an email to School Bus Fleet, Katz clarified that the data gathered with the form won’t be formally released, but rather used to identify districts for follow-up interviews.
“It’s really a pre-screening tool so that we know who to contact,” Katz said.