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 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 about the implications of adding seatbelts to buses.

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

Also under the 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, said rollovers 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, who is 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 are 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?” said 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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Revelstoke, North Okanagan RCMP team up to nab Alberta man, stolen BMW

Helicopter, dogs used in North Okanagan highway arrest

Salmon Arm West bridge construction expected to begin in fall 2020

Budget for Highway 1 project up $20 million over intial 2016 estimate

No active confirmed COVID-19 cases in Interior Health: BCCDC

Numbers from the BCCDC’s dashboard show 193 of the 195 COVID-19 cases in the region have recovered

Refugee family assists former hosts in effort to stop rising water of Shuswap Lake

Alahmad family spend morning filling sandbags to help protect residences

Morning Start: Before Rosa Parks, there was Claudette Colvin

Your morning start for Thursday, June 4, 2020

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

Regional District of Kootenay Boundary rescinds all Grand Forks-are evacuation orders

Evacuation alerts for 1,136 Boundary properties remain in effect as officials monitor forecasts

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

In photos: Modified, yet traditional graduation gives Penticton graduates a sense of normalcy

Students around Penticton take part in pre-recorded graduation ceremonies

Filming to resume safely later in June: Okanagan Film Commission

Film commissioner Jon Summerland said they want to start filming again later in June

Kelowna RCMP investigate woman’s sudden death

Criminality is not suspected at this time, according to RCMP

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

WATCH: Burned out car be gone thanks to Vernon dealership, ski resort

Bannister GM Vernon and SilverStar Mountain Resort team up in road cleanup

Most Read