School Bus Seat Belts: Implementation Strategies
published on February 04, 2020 by Sonia Mastros
Going into 2020, there are now nine states that openly mandate school bus seat belts within their school districts, and two others offering grants or other incentives. Numerous other states are debating the issue. While not truly decided yet, it seems that the seat belt discussion has reached a tipping point.
Interestingly, the deciding factor appears to have been one only tangentially related to safety. While one might argue for or against belts from a pure crash survival standpoint, nearly every district that implements belts has seen a major benefit: School bus seat belts significantly improve student rider behavior. That translates to bus routes running more smoothly and more safely, which more than justifies the inclusion of belts for many decision-makers.
So, it seems like now is a good time for schools to start seriously making plans to upgrade their buses in the near future - if not in 2020, then soon thereafter. Based on industry reports, we have some suggestions on how to handle this.
Four Ways to Ease the Implementation of Seat Belts on Your School Buses
1. Get the Administration Fully On-board
More than anything else, seat belt implementation must be pushed from the top down. This is not an initiative that a typical district transportation coordinator will be able to handle entirely on their own. You will need the superintendent and other high-ranking administration officials fully onboard and willing to spend time pushing the project.
2. Make It a Safety Pitch to the Parents
As districts have painfully learned in recent years, getting the taxpayers to agree to additional school funding can be extremely difficult. Fortunately, this is a topic that invites pure appeals to emotion. School bus seat belts make children safer. Hammer on that, if you need to turn to the public for funding.
3. Start Lobbying
Are you in a state that's currently considering a seat belt mandate? Be proactive and get your district involved politically. In particular, push for state grants that would help pay for the belts. Without substantial input from districts, lawmakers might not consider the financial burden a seat belt mandate will require.
4. Train Drivers to Scan for Non-Adhering Students
Once belts are on your buses, the drivers must have the ability to enforce their usage. This will mean some additional training on how to spot students who aren't using their belts properly. Other alternatives include adding more adults onboard to police usage or utilizing belts that electronically report their status to the driver. These are, however, more expensive options.
Adding belts to school buses will have major challenges - does your district have plans for overcoming them? Please share your own experiences in the comments below!