Transport Canada looks to set up guidelines for seat belts on school buses
Staff , CTV Barrie
Published Monday, March 20, 2017 2:27PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, March 20, 2017 6:15PM EDT
The federal government is proposing regulations for Canadian school bus operators who want to put seat belts on their vehicles.
In an online notice, Transport Canada says the proposal would improve safety for children caught up in severe crashes, especially rollovers.
Transport Canada made the proposal after investigating most fatal bus collisions over the past 15 years.
“Through these investigations, occupant ejection in highway bus rollovers was identified as a safety risk, which is why Transport Canada is proposing the requirement for seat belts in highway buses, which are a proven method of reducing the risk of occupant ejection in rollovers,” said Daniel Savoie with Transport Canada.
As it is, the key requirements on buses are to have high-back padded seats closely spaced together, known as compartmentalization, to protect riders without the need for seat belts.
The agency says Canada has no requirements for seat belts on any size of school bus, meaning there is no way to ensure that seat belts put on some buses are installed safely and correctly.
School buses can have lap-only seat belts, but Transport Canada says they can raise the risk of injury compared to existing features on buses, which is why the agency is looking to require over-the-shoulder belts instead.
In Simcoe County, approximately 35,000 kids ride school buses every day and the proposal could have huge implications.
"It's not a simple thing such as putting seat belts on buses," said John Dance, Superintendent of facility services for the Simcoe County District School Board. "It's what kind of seat belts, where would they be located, does that change the number of students on a bus."
The proposed regulations in the Canada Gazette stress that school buses are safe to ride.
There hasn't been a single child fatality on a school bus in Canada since 2008 and only one per cent of all school-age child fatalities in the preceding decade were on a school bus.
Transport Canada says children are over 16 times more likely to be killed walking to school than while riding a school bus.
Officials with the Simcoe County District School Board say crashes are rare, but they recognize there are questions since buckling up has been the law for more than 40 years.
"It's become second nature in Ontario for people to buckle up and then when you get on a school bus which is considered to be safe then the counterpoint is we don't buckle up," said Dance.
The public has 75 days to comment on the recommendation.
Transport Canada says it will assess comments received and will address any identified issues if it is determined that there is a valid rationale for changes.
- With files from The Canadian Press