Calls to Upgrade to Lap-Shoulder Belts Get Louder

Posted on: June 25th, 2018 by Staff

The list of national organizations making their support for lap-shoulder seat belts on school buses crystal clear continues to grow more impressive and harder to ignore. The NTSB is the latest to definitively add their name.

“We have always tiptoed around the issue of seat belt usage [and] lap-shoulder belts in school buses,” NTSB Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt admitted during a recent board meeting regarding investigations into high profile school bus crashes in Baltimore and Chattanooga. The NTSB went on to recommend 42 states with no current seat belt requirement, “enact legislation to require all new large school buses be equipped with passenger lap-shoulder belts for all passenger seating positions.”

For states like New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Louisiana that already mandate seat belts, the NTSB recommended an upgrade in requirements from lap belts to lap-shoulder belts. Equipping new buses with three-point belts is the common approach for upgrading a fleet over time, but districts wanting to be proactive with their existing buses have options, especially if their buses are made by IC Bus. For all buses 2010 and younger, IC features the BTI seating system which allows for a quick and easily upgrade from lap belts to lap-shoulder belts or integrated child seats by switching seat backs. A full retrofit is unnecessary.

While the NTSB went on record with their firmest statement of support yet, it should be noted they are actually a long-time proponent of lap-shoulder belts on school buses and have done more to advocate for them than any other government agency or organization. They’ve studied crashes firsthand, run the simulations, and have scientific proof seat belts on school buses make a difference. In recent years, the NTSB even went so far as to produce a video on the benefits of wearing seat belts on school buses. Their findings and statements following the devastating November 2017 crashes in Baltimore and Chattanooga put to rest any doubt where they stand on the issue.

And they are not alone. NHTSA, NASDPTS, The American Academy of Pediatrics, The National Safety Council, The National PTA, and millions of parents want seat belts on school buses. Three-point belts are proven to save lives and reduce injuries in school bus crashes, especially when compartmentalization fails in side impacts and rollovers. These organizations have studied the issue extensively, have separated fact from fiction, and have seen that adding lap-shoulder belts does not reduce capacity, slow evacuations, or add potential weapons to a school bus. What lap-shoulder belts do is better protect students, with the added benefits of reducing bullying, improving behavior, decreasing driver distraction, and improving driver satisfaction at a time when drivers are in high demand.

Many school buses now travel further than ever on interstates and highways where they run at greater speeds surrounded by vehicles just as large and heavy as they are. The days of school buses sticking only to slow side streets is over, and children need more protection as a result than they did ten and twenty years ago. School transportation has changed, and the NTSB recognizes that the methods used to protect students need to evolve as well.

As Chairman Sumwalt said numerous times during the meeting, “Safety demands oversight that puts lives first.” Doing so means following the NTSB’s new recommendation and installing or upgrading to lap-shoulder belts on our nation’s school buses.

When Compartmentalization Doesn’t Work

Posted on: March 19th, 2018 by Staff

Compartmentalization works.

Except when it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, you will wish you had lap-shoulder belts on your school bus.

Whether it is a side impact from a truck, or a rollover on the interstate, compartmentalization is not designed to protect children in either case. Kids go flying, especially in a rollover, where they are thrown around like human pinballs. They strike the roof, the walls, the seats, and often each other. When the bus comes to rest, if those kids are still conscious, they’re often in a confused, disoriented, and pain-filled pile, making it harder for them to evacuate.

Watch for yourself what happens in a rollover with belted and unbelted passengers.

The Griffith High School basketball team in Griffith, Indiana was on their way to the state semifinals when they experienced this nightmare firsthand. Struck by a small Kia on the interstate, the bus was forced off the road where it rolled onto its roof, which crushed at the impact. Players reported bodies ricocheting around the interior of the bus, smashing into broken windows and one another. When they students were able to crawl out through shattered windows, many were bloodied, and one coach had to be airlifted due to his injuries. There were no seat belts on their bus to keep them safely in their seats during the crash.

Some bus drivers express concern that in a crash like this, they’ll have to cut students out of their seat belts, but lap-shoulder belts are just like the ones in your car. They are designed to release at the click of a button, even when someone is in the seat belt hanging upside down. It is far easier for a driver to evacuate children who are calmer, conscious, and spared from more serious injuries caused by being thrown around the interior of the bus. Carrying out unconscious children or children with broken bones is a far worse scenario.

Photo of Griffith High School School Bus on its roof after a rollover.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Miano, The Times

What happened to the Griffith basketball team is a perfect example of why districts that want to take the proactive step of adding seat belts should start with their travel and activity buses. Used for sporting events, field trips, and school activities, these buses are more likely to leave behind relatively slower speeds on neighborhood streets for highways and interstates where they can travel 55 mph or more. Surrounded by heavier traffic and vehicles matching or exceeding the school bus in size, travel buses are the most at risk for serious crashes like the one the Griffith High School team endured. Starting with lap-shoulder belts on these buses simply makes when it comes to protection as well as the district’s bottom line.

It also makes sense for parents is you have to explain why you can’t outfit your whole fleet with lap-shoulder belts at once. Chances are their children will ride on an activity bus in the near future, whether it be for a football game or a field trip, and parents will have better peace of mind knowing their children are protected by the best seat belt technology available.

The Griffith High School basketball team was lucky. Even though many of the players were hurt, no one received life threatening injuries, but rollovers like this one don’t always end on that note. Children are our most precious cargo, and they deserve to be protected by lap-shoulder belts on their school buses, especially when compartmentalization, the only protection many of them have, isn’t enough.

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.

 

Moving Forward in School Bus Safety

Posted on: November 14th, 2013 by admin 1 Comment

Wednesday, November 13, 2013
WESTFIELD, IN

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SafeGuard®, a brand of IMMI® – the leading manufacturer of commercial safety, hosted it’s 14th School Bus Crash at the Center for Advanced Product Evaluation (CAPE®). Safety industry leaders – insurance companies, Indiana State Police officers, school bus manufacturers, and support staff – were all in attendance to witness a School Bus Safety presentation and a live demonstration of a School Bus crash.

SafeGuard and CAPE have tested more School Bus Seats than anyone else in the country. In this crash test, we placed test dummies in several different positions — restrained in three-point SafeGuard seat belts, unrestrained in base seats with out seat belts, and out-of-position (looking over the back of the seat, sitting sideways, etc.). The visual results tell the story. Are school buses safe? No one debates that. However, could they potentially be made safer for our children with increased safety measures like adding lap-shoulder belts? Absolutely.

 

Common Misinformation About Seat Belts on School Buses

  1. Compartmentalization is enough protection for students.
    FALSE. Just look what happens in a rollover – both in a real one, and in a crash test.
  2. Seat belts slow down evacuations.
    FALSE. Click here to learn how seat belts help evacuations.
  3. Seat belts reduce school bus capacity.
    FALSE. The capacity issue has been solved with the FlexSeat which comfortable fits 2 older children or 3 younger children with the added safety benefits of lap-shoulder seat belts.
  4. Seat belts can be used as weapons on the school bus.
    FALSE. While this may have been true with the older-style lap belts, our SafeGuard lap-shoulder belts are RETRACTABLE. The seat belt webbing (strap) retracts into the seat back, as they do in your car. The buckles are lightweight, making them virtually impossible to be used as weapons. Seat belts as weapons? It’s just not true anymore. Seat belts can actually improve behavior on the school bus by helping keep kids in their seats. Find out why by clicking here.
  5. Outfitting a bus with seat belts costs too much.
    FALSE. With SafeGuard belts on school buses, it’s only pennies per day over the life of a school bus (12 – 16 years). Technological advances and volume increases that have lowered costs, so Safeguard belts have never been more affordable. Costs have been reduced by as much as 52% since 2003. SafeGuard lap-shoulder belts are a one-time cost, for the life of the bus.

High-Res Gallery

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Seat Belts on Buses Do Not Slow Evacuations

Posted on: September 13th, 2013 by admin

For years, SafeGuard has heard excuse after excuse against using lap-shoulder belts on school buses, but there is one in particular we hear from parents. They fear a scenario where seat belts could slow or prevent their child from evacuating in a serious accident. The reality is that without seat belts on your child’s school bus, children might not be able to evacuate at all.

When a school bus rolls over and children aren’t belted in, they are far more likely to suffer serious injuries or to be knocked unconscious, making evacuation more difficult if not impossible without the help of others. The videos below show what happens to unbelted children in a rollover. They are tossed about, slamming into everything from the ceiling to other children, dramatically increasing their risk of injury. The children who are belted in remain safely and securely in their seats.

The seat belts SafeGuard puts on school buses are no different than the ones in your car. Children learn from an early age how to buckle and unbuckle their seat belts, and in the event of an accident on the school bus, it takes a child a second or less to push the button and release himself. By Federal Safety Standards, the force required to push the release button is the same as what your child experiences in your vehicle, even when the belt is under a load such as that caused by the weight of a passenger in a rollover.

What can slow down evacuations is the limit of one person at a time through the rear emergency exit and/or the front door. The use of the side exit windows and roof hatches are an extreme rarity in evacuations, and are even much slower. Lap-shoulder belts help speed up the evacuation process. It is far easier for a conscious, uninjured child to escape.

Just like drills inside the school building, the same kind of emergency preparation should be conducted for students who ride the bus, so children know what to do and where to go in the event of an accident. Being prepared, whether they have seat belts or not, helps keep them calmer and also helps them to evacuate more quickly.

Lap-shoulder belts also help protect your children in other types of crashes as well as sudden stops. When children aren’t wearing lap-shoulder belts on the school bus, a sudden stop propels them into the seat in front of them, often causing minor injuries. When they’re belted in, this doesn’t happen.

It’s time to move past the misinformation that’s been circulating for decades about lap-shoulder belts on school buses. The fact is there is absolutely no proof that seat belts slow the evacuation process. What has been proven is that seat belts can save lives.

Back-to-School Bus Safety Tips

Posted on: July 30th, 2013 by admin No Comments

It’s August and it’s nearly time for all of America’s kids to go back to school. Stay safer with these tips provided in part by First Student and the National Safety Council.

School Bus Safety Tips for Parents & Students

1. Leave plenty of time to arrive safely at the bus stop.

2. Stay alert while traveling to the bus stop – don’t text, listen to loud music in your headphones, playing video games etc.

3. Stay away from the street and follow all traffic safety rules.

4. Stay 12 GIANT steps away from you and the bus at the bus stop so that the bus drivers will ALWAYS see you.

5. Know your driver’s name and bus driver to make sure you board the right bus.

6. When the bus arrives, let it stop completely before approaching it.

7. Always use the handrail when climbing the bus stairs, and sit down immediately.

8. Buckle up if your bus has seat belts! If your bus doesn’t have seat belts, let your school teachers, officials and family members know — and read why there needs to be seat belts on school buses here.

8. Be courteous and respectful to your bus driver, and talk quietly with your friends — don’t yell, or the driver will become distracted.

9. Keep your arms, legs, papers, and anything that belongs to you inside the bus at all times.

10. Be aware, alert and safe!

School Bus Safety Tips for Commuters

1. Slow down when you see flashing yellow lights from the school bus, and stop when they use their flashing red lights/stop arm. You are required by law to stop on BOTH sides on the street when these red lights are lit and/or when the stop arm is extended.

2. Do not attempt to pass a stopped school bus that is loading or unloading children, no matter where it is.

3. Do not text and drive, or drive while distracted.