School Bus Safety in Florida: Child Restraint Requirements
published on September 14, 2016 by Sonia Mastros
State laws regarding school transportation and required school bus safety procedures vary vastly from state to state. Until just last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommended against the use of seatbelts on school buses. Now they suggest the use of lap and shoulder belts. Florida is one of the states that now requires seatbelts on school buses.
Despite the NHTSA recommendation, California is currently the only state that requires new school buses be equipped with both lap and shoulder belts. The law in Florida is not quite as stringent, only requiring lap belts. Just like many other states, school districts in Florida face many budget constraints, making widespread retrofitting and the purchase of new buses with lap and shoulder belts more than a minor challenge.
The Seatbelt Debate
Even without seatbelts, school buses are considered by motor vehicle experts to be one of the safest ways to travel. Until recently, Florida relied on a safety concept known as compartmentalization. Tall and closely-spaced seats are used to create a protective barrier around bus passengers. Unfortunately, this is not thought to provide sufficient protection when a rollover or side-impact collision occurs. Safety restraints may also help to prevent driver distractions and violence between students, who are less likely to wander when required to buckle up.
Opponents of mandatory seatbelts on school buses argue that they may prevent students from escaping during an evacuation. They also worry that the cost outweighs the benefits. Though seatbelts on school buses do make them safer, very few students die in bus accidents each year. Just how many injuries are prevented by seatbelts is harder to pin down. Some school bus safety advocates also suggest that resources be diverted to efforts that help students to board and exit buses more safely and prevent accidents caused by other drivers.
Keeping Students Safe
Seatbelt use is just one of the many ways that Florida school districts can keep school bus passengers safe. Technology is now allowing transportation departments to track buses in real-time, catching route deviations and unauthorized stops as they happen. Sophisticated transportation software can now help plan routes that avoid all types of safety hazards.
Contact the team of transportation specialists at BusBoss for more information on safety programs that can help protect the students on your school buses.
How have seatbelts changed the way your transportation department operates? We’d love to hear from you.