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North Okanagan Shuswap district studies school bus seat belt project results

School buses in two provincial school districts have had seat belts installed as a pilot project
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North Okanagan Shuswap School District trustees were given an update on a pair of pilot projects in B.C.’s Vancouver Island and Fraser Valley regions where seat belts have been installed on school buses. Transport Canada is a partner in the project along with the Association of School Transportation Services. (Black Press)

North Okanagan Shuswap School District trustees have been updated on how a pair of B.C. pilot projects involving seat belts on school buses are clicking.

The projects are running in Nanaimo/Ladysmith, on Vancouver Island, and Hope, in the Fraser Valley.

North Okanagan Shuswap director of operations Travis Elwood told trustees that the two pilot projects involve the bus driver and an aid that travels on the bus to help the drive, and that the projects are a partnership between Transport Canada and the Association of School Transportation Services.

Some of the project findings so far, said Elwood, include:

• Increased student loading times (routes taking 10-15 minutes longer);

• Certain brands of seat belts are getting tangled easily;

• Adjustment for larger and smaller children often need driver or aid assistance;

• High school students are ignoring the seatbelt requirement causing a huge spike in discipline memos.

The cost analysis of shoulder belts on new buses is about $7,000 to $10,000 and for buses able to be retrofitted (Western Bus brand, newer than 2014), the cost is approximately $22,100 per bus.

Elwood said 33 of the North Okanagan Shuswap district’s current 49 buses would be capable of being retrofitted.

Liability considerations are also a huge part of the project. B.C. Legislation, said Elwood, puts the responsibility of students wearing their seat belts, and having them properly adjusted, on the bus driver for all passengers under the age of 16.

In the North Okanagan-Shuswap district, that is 2,272 of 2,798 riders, or 81 per cent of students who take the buses.

Elwood said the pilot projects finish up in June and then a report of the findings will be shared.

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roger@vernonmorningstar.com

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