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.

NHTSA Endorses Seat Belts on School Buses

Posted on: November 8th, 2015 by Staff

Something momentous happened today in the drive to see America’s children protected on their school buses with lap-shoulder belts.

Speaking before school transportation directors from across the country at the NAPT conference, NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind went on record with NHTSA’s clear recommendation of lap-shoulder seat belts on school buses.

“Seat belts save lives. That is true whether in a car or yellow school bus,” Rosekind said. “School buses should have seat belts. Period.” 

Many of those opposed to seat belts on school buses often claim NHTSA is against them by misquoting a former NHTSA ruling. While NHTSA is stopping short of a mandate, in all likelihood to protect cash strapped districts from such an expense at this time, no one can continue to deny that the biggest regulatory automotive agency in the country is onboard with adding lap-shoulder belts to school buses.

With NHTSA’s endorsement, now more than ever is the time to push your district to do the right thing. We still have plenty of work to do, but one of the oppositions’ main talking points has been clearly and irrevocably demolished. One less excuse stands in our way as we advocate to make school buses as safe as they can be for our kids.

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.

 

A Grassroots Effort for Seat Belts Begins to Grow

Posted on: July 1st, 2015 by Staff

For the first time, SafeGuard4Kids attended the National PTA Convention. Held in Charlotte, North Carolina, the convention brought together PTA delegates from all over the country. While we can make noise about bringing lap-shoulder belts to school buses, and we can strike down the misinformation out there about them, the only people who can truly bring about change are the kind of men and women we met this past week.

National PTA ConferenceOur team really didn’t know what to expect from our first convention, but we were blown away by the passion and commitment of the people we met. So many told us they’d wanted lap-shoulder belts on school buses for years, but they weren’t sure what they needed to do to make it happen. We were happy to give them the tools and resources their districts need to bring about this important safety upgrade to their school buses, and we are honored to partner with people who are willing to advocate so strongly for the improved safety of our nation’s children.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by our booth to chat and to learn the benefits about SafeGuard lap-shoulder belts on school buses. We hope the convention was as rewarding for you as it was for us, and we look forward to seeing you next year!

Snowy Weather Means Additional Challenges for School Bus Drivers

Posted on: December 12th, 2013 by admin No Comments

As I write this blog post, there is a beautiful fresh coat of snow on the ground. Winter has officially arrived, albeit a little early. We also got a little ice as an “added bonus.” More is in the forecast for today, but most of our schools are sticking to their regular schedules. That means many school buses will likely be navigating some tricky road conditions as they bring children home this afternoon. Bus drivers may face additional challenges on the streets that haven’t been plowed or salted, and with a bus full of rowdy children who just want to get home and play outside, I don’t envy them.

 

This time of year, it’s par for the course, or should I say, road. School buses have to make their way through snow and ice. We’ve all seen the news reports where one or more of them in our districts have slid off or been in an accident. Sometimes they even overturn when a tire leaves the road and suddenly the driver finds the bus tipping into a ditch the snow obscured a half second before. At SafeGuard®, we always want children to have the added protection seat belts on the school bus can bring, but in the winter time, imagine the difference they could make. Bus drivers can better focus on slippery roads. Students would be seated properly rather than in positions that could increase their chances of being injured.
Photo Credit – JF Nadeau/Radio-Canada

 

SafeGuard recently conducted two separate events to demonstrate what happens in a frontal crash when students are out of position. The results were alarming. Compartmentalization is intended to save their lives, but in an accident, the results can still lead to concussions and spinal cord injuries when the children are slammed into the seats and other students. Watch what happened at SafeGuard’s most recent crash test event. The out of position “students” did not fare well, while those in seat belts were considerably more protected.

 

The bus was only going 30mph, and this was a frontal crash, the kind of crash where compartmentalization is supposed to work best. Now imagine how badly it could fail when a bus slides off an icy road and rolls over.

Driving a bus is a tough job made more difficult by snow and ice. When I hear people say that compartmentalization is safe enough, I wonder if they would still agree after experiencing crashes like these first hand. I’m sure for the parents whose children suffer bloody noses, concussions and even worse from the very system designed to protect them might agree that “good enough” is not enough. Not when their children could have potentially been spared such injuries had then been wearing seat belts.

Marissa Cotten
December 12, 2013

If you think seat belts should be on school buses, fill out the advocate request form for more information!
advocate button

No More Excuses – It’s Time for Seat Belts on School Buses.

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

There are No More Excuses® — it’s time for seat belts on school buses. With this inforgraphic below, you’ll find out the new statistics and innovations around school buses seat belts as well as the most common misconceptions on the bottom half of the graphic.

Want more information on School Bus Safety? Click here & here for articles we’ve written on the topic.

Want to start a movement in your community for seat belts on school buses? Join us on Facebook, and click here for more advocate resources.

Download the hi-res version here, and share it with your friends!

Circle Infographic -- Finished