School District #83 school board discussed the installation of seatbelts on school buses. (File photo)

Seatbelts on school buses would come with safety, cost concerns

Retrofitting belts would cost approximately $240,000 for 24 buses

Installation of seat belts on school buses isn’t a foregone conclusion for the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District.

During their Tuesday, Feb. 19 meeting, School District #83’s board of education received a report from director of operations Trevor Bettcher as to what some of the implications of adding seatbelts to buses might be.

He explained provincial legislation places responsibility of having students ages 16-and-under wear their seatbelts – and assuring belts are properly adjusted – on the bus driver.

Also under legislation, drivers cannot leave their seats unless they are off the travelled portion of the highway (there are 931 bus stops along highways in the school district).

Bettcher also noted there could be a decrease in bus capacity depending on how many seatbelts can be installed per seat. Cost-wise, Bettcher said adding three-point belts to new school buses (from Western Canada Bus factory) would add $5,500 to $6,500 to the cost of each, while retrofitting the district’s 24 newer buses (of its 52-bus fleet) would cost approximately $8,000 for parts and $2,000 for labour per bus.

Read more: Transport Canada to take new look at rules, research on school bus seatbelts

Read more: School District 83 buses struck by vehicles five times in past 13 months

Bettcher added the district’s older Thomas buses would probably cost $35,000 dollars, but said it would be very difficult to get an engineer to sign off on the retrofit.

Spurring Bettcher’s report is Transport Canada’s recognition that seatbelts would improve safety in the event of a rollover or side impact. A federal task force will be evaluating what mandatory seatbelts on school buses would look like.

Kathy Keam, a bus driver for 38 years in the school district, now retired, says roll overs and side collisions don’t happen often; we hear about them when they do because that’s when injuries happen.

“The majority of crashes that happen are either front end or rear end, so when they’re sitting safely what happens is they would go into the front of the seat as a whole, and back as a whole, so the injuries would be less severe,” said Keam, noting the safety of bus seating has improved over the years to include compartmentalized higher seats with thicker padding.

Keam notes having the bus driver responsible for assuring riders are safely buckled in would likely add time to routes.

“You take a kindergarten kid, whose five or four they’re so used to everybody else doing their seatbelt for them… they may not have the capability to do it themselves,” she said.

Alternatively, there’s the worst-case scenarios where riders need to be out of their buckles as soon as possible.

“So I have 50 kids on the bus, we live in an area where there’s a lot of water – What if for some reason that bus ends up getting submerged in the water? You have 50 kids seatbelted in, what are your chances of getting them all out?” says Keam. “The other one is if the bus catches on fire… you have 50 kids seatbelted in, how do you get them all out, get the buckles all undone”

“I mean, we practice bus evacuation in our district all the time, we do the training continually through the year, but those are a couple of more things to actually think about.”

Bettcher said to date, no B.C. school districts have implemented seatbelt on school buses.


@SalmonArm
newsroom@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Vernon crash claims father

Family thanks emergency crews for assistance in traumatic incident

Mainly sunny Victoria Day in Okanagan-Shuswap

The South Okanagan is the hottest spot to be in the province for Victoria Day

Vernon chamber members do not want overdose prevention site downtown

Chamber reps meet with Interior Health to discuss proposed site for Vernon

Vernon Winter Carnival names board

Carnival set for milestone 60th annual event - Carnival Remembers teh 60s – in February 2020

BC Transit incorporates North Okanagan route changes

Changes coming June 2 to routes in Coldstream and Armstrong

Falkland ropes in final day of stampede

101st annual event went off without a hitch over May long weekend

Police watchdog investigating motorcycle crash in Kamloops

A Kamloops Mountie had stopped the driver for speeding, but they raced off from the 0fficer

Facebook takes down anti-vaxxer page that used image of late Canadian girl

Facebook said that the social media company has disabled the anti-vaccination page

Search crews rescue kids, 6 and 7, stranded overnight on Coquitlam mountain

The father and two youngesters fell down a steep and treachorous cliff while hiking on Burke Mountain

Letter: More cell towers, more radiation

The ever increasing electromagnetic radiation (EMR) is creating a hell-on-earth situation for… Continue reading

Okanagan Regional Library hosts famous author

Author of The Woo Woo, Lindsay Wong will be in Kelowna Tuesday

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

‘She was a sweetheart’: B.C. mom who died from carbon monoxide poisoning remembered

Sister raising funds to travel from Scotland to support family after tragedy

Most Read