Letter to the editor – seat belts

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Dear Editor,

I would like to add some additional facts to the position forwarded by “name withheld by request”.

www.canada.ca/en/transport-canada/news/2018/07/transport-canada-to-make-seat-belts-mandatory-on-highway-buses.html.  …all highway buses built on September 1, 2020 or later will require seat belts. Small buses (under 4,536 kg), with the exception of school buses, already have lap and shoulder belts.

Overall, buses are a safe means of transportation; however, seat belts can improve safety even further by helping prevent passengers from being ejected during a collision or rollover.

Some operators have already begun introducing new highway buses equipped with seat belts.
www.gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2018/2018-07-11/html/sor-dors143-2-eng.html.

The NHTSA Final Rule excludes non over-the-road buses under 11 793 kg GVWR, as 88% of the U.S. bus fatalities resulted from collisions involving large intercity buses above this weight threshold. Therefore, in the United States, many medium-sized buses between 4 536 kg and 11 793 kg will not be required to have seat belts. (This is in contrast to Transport Canada who will soon make them mandatory on newly built medium and large highway buses.)

School bus travel continues to be the safest means for transporting children to and from school. From 1999 to 2008, only an estimated 1% of all school-age child fatalities that occurred during normal school transportation were in school buses. The majority of child fatalities, 67%, occurred in light duty personal vehicle accidents. Statistics also show that children are over 16 times more likely to be killed walking to school when compared to taking a school bus.

In the summer of 2011, the United States published a report on the implications of mandating the installation of seat belts on large school buses. School bus procurement budgets are limited and it was found that the increased cost of the mandatory installation of seat belts would result in fewer school bus purchases. This would lead to fewer children being transported in school buses, placing school children at greater risk of injury and fatality from the use of other modes of transportation. ipolitics.ca/2018/10/15/transport-canada-to-review-school-bus-seatbelts.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau is ordering his department to take a fresh look at the data on school-bus safety and seatbelts.

Garneau says if seatbelts are properly used and installed on buses, they can provide an additional layer of safety for riders, but he also notes that current seat designs provide good safety in the event of an accident.

The government did introduce new guidelines in late June to regulate their use by bus operators who choose to install them.

Those new technical requirements say restraints must not compromise existing safety features of the compartmentalized seats specifically designed to protect schoolchildren in the event of a crash.

A 2010 Transport Canada study found seatbelts could help prevent injuries in rollovers; crashes where a pickup truck or larger vehicle slammed into the side of a bus; or crashes causing “significant vertical lift of the occupant compartment.”

Robert Bowden,
Senior Engineer, Transport Canada

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