DES MOINES, Iowa — Des Moines Public Schools is set to deploy the first bus in its study of lap-shoulder belts for students, the district reported on Thursday.
The district’s transportation department is conducting the seat belt trial, which was announced in August, in partnership with the Iowa Department of Education, SynTec Seating Solutions, and Thomas Bus Sales.
Todd Liston, transportation director for Des Moines Public Schools, said that while the district continues to believe that school buses are one of the safest forms of transportation available, new safety options that appear to be viable should be tried out.
“We have several questions,” Liston said. “Among them, will the students use the seat belts, or are they a distraction? Can the students secure themselves, or would they need assistance getting in and out of their seats, possibly causing a hazard if quick evacuation of the bus became necessary? All of these things need to be studied.”
The seat belt study will involve two Thomas Built Saf-T-Liner C2 school buses equipped with SynTec S3C seats. One of the new buses was expected to go into service on Monday. The other is scheduled to arrive at the Des Moines Public Schools transportation facility in December.
Liston said that he plans to use the information collected in the study to gauge the potential benefits of lap-shoulder belts for students.
Meanwhile, the district also issued a reminder to motorists that they can help keep students safe by stopping for school buses that are loading or unloading passengers.
“The greatest risk to students who ride the bus is when they are approaching or leaving it,” Superintendent Dr. Thomas Ahart said. “If more drivers follow the rules of the road, students will be safer starting today.”