New Indiana Rule Enhances Safety for Youngest Passengers

Posted on: March 19th, 2018 by Staff

You may want to prepare for a safety directive underway in one state that could soon cascade across the country. A new regulation in Indiana Administrative Code enhances the safety of the youngest children who ride school buses. The reason for the regulation, the increased safety its implementation will provide, and what restraints are recommended, are worth diving into.

The new rule went into effect January 1, 2018, and states that any pre-K child riding in a school bus in Indiana must be secured in a proper age, weight, and size FMVSS 213 compliant child restraint system. When you think about all the children in public school or private childcare programs, this literally affects thousands of young children. This directive does not, however, apply to children attending kindergarten, elementary, middle, or high school.

Compartmentalization was never designed and doesn’t work to protect pre-K children on the bus. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found children weighing less than 50 pounds need more protection than compartmentalization provides. Why? Because their bodies have not physically developed enough to handle the impact to the seat in front of them without causing internal injuries.

For compartmentalization to be most effective, a child also needs to be sitting in proper position – upright and forward-facing. For most pre-K children, this is an unrealistic expectation. They tend to lay down on the seat, sit sideways, or in some cases, move around. CSRS, Child Safety Restraint Systems, are the solution to better protect these passengers, and there are several options available.

Three children sit on a school bus seat in their SafeGuard SuperSTARS.The first, school bus specific add-on child restraint systems, are the most popular. Like the SafeGuard STAR or SuperSTAR, they attach to the bus seat using straps called the cam wrap, which wraps over the seat back and sometimes under the seat cushion. These restraints are lightweight, portable, and take up little space. Some are even available for children weighing up to 90 pounds and may offer options for additional upper body support needed for some students.

Safety vests and safety harnesses are other common options for school buses. These restraints also attach to the school bus seat by means of a cam wrap. They are frequently used for special needs applications in school buses and even passenger cars.

Cam wraps negatively affect the performance of compartmentalization. That’s why NHTSA requires a label that states the seat behind the cam wrap must either be unoccupied or used only by a passenger who is also restrained by a CSRS or seat belt.

Another choice is the integrated child seat, or built-in child restraint. This restraint is built into the seat with a 5-point harness. They are easy to use, and no installation is needed. A flap covering the child restraint folds down to create the seating surface. Just as with regular car seats, these can be adjusted for snugness, height, and do have weight and size limitations.

The last option is conventional car seats, but they are limited by the fact that they must be installed using a seat belt or LATCH and may be difficult to install on a school bus seat. However, when transporting infants, the rear-facing infant passenger car seat is the only option available.

While your state may not have a law mandating the use of CSRS yet, knowing about Indiana’s efforts to better protect their youngest school bus riders can help your district do the same.

District Gets Groovy with Seat Belts on School Buses

Posted on: November 6th, 2015 by Staff

Earlier this year, Westfield Washington Schools decided it was time for seat belts on school buses. Where they started with them could be a model for other school districts to follow.

IMG_3393Westfield wisely began their foray into seat belts with their travel buses. These buses don’t stick to neighborhood roads but travel on the interstates and highways. Field trips, sporting events, and school activities often require school buses to travel farther, at significantly higher speeds, and often in heavy traffic surrounded by large semi trucks. For Westfield, it just made sense to start with lap-shoulder belts here. Lori Hutson, a local mother, agreed. “I like that idea. The kids are traveling further and further to sporting events as Westfield grows to compete with those larger schools. So I think that’s a huge, huge benefit to have that.”

According to the NHTSA, seat belts save lives and reduce injuries up to 50%. New technology has now made lap-shoulder belts, just like the ones in millions of cars, available on school buses. Lori appreciates that her school district is looking out for her kids by equipping their six travel buses with seat belts. “I was pretty excited about it even though my kids are older. They still take the buses to after school sporting events.  With my oldest son, he’s on the wrestling team, so a lot of their events are far away and take place on the weekend. They travel I-65 and that gets a little nerve wracking knowing how many accidents take place on that road.”

groovy KidsIMMI, owner of SafeGuard seats, created a video for Westfield Washington Schools to help teach kids how to properly buckle up on the school bus. Featuring local teachers, locations, and lots and lots of Westfield kids, “Groovy Bus” will help kids correctly buckle up for years to come. “My son and my niece both did it,” Lori said, “and they had a blast doing it. After seeing the video put together they thought it was a pretty catchy tune. Every once in a while I’ll catch him kind of humming it,” she laughed. “But I thought it was really cute. I thought it was fun. I thought it was very instructional on how to do the seat belts.

“IMMI is excited to provide a fun, catchy video featuring many of Westfield’s own to help Westfield Washington Schools train their students on this new, beneficial safety feature on their travel buses,” said Tom Anthony, president and owner of IMMI. “The district’s commitment to better protect children on these buses that often travel on the interstate at higher rates of speed is commendable and forward-thinking, and we’re proud to partner with them in this endeavor.”

The “Groovy Bus” song will also be given to other school districts that have SafeGuard lap-shoulder belts on their buses, so that they can put their own creative and unique production into it. You can check out the “Groovy Bus” video below.