Studies Reveal Added Benefits of School Bus Seat Belts
published on June 14, 2019 by Sonia Mastros
Are school bus seat belts a feature that would save lives, or are they more trouble than they're worth? For decades, the conventional wisdom was the latter: Buses are already so safe that any benefits added by belts would be minimal, and counterbalanced with new safety problems they'd create. However, more and more evidence is starting to challenge this perception.At a recent conference of the National State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), more evidence was presented based on a study conducted across North Carolina by researcher Matthew Palmer. Based on his observations, as well as data gathered in California, he fully endorsed school bus seat belts as a worthwhile investment.
Here are some of the key findings.
Four New Insights Into the Benefits of School Bus Seat Belts
1. California's program has been a complete success.
Because the North Carolina study was short term, Palmer pulled numbers from California, which has mandated belts on their buses since 2006. Based on California's experiences, the fear that belts would do more harm than good seems to be unfounded. School bus rider injuries decreased by 57% after belts were mandated.
Additionally, the number of accidents caused by bus driver error were down substantially as well. This could have a number of contributing factors, but Palmer attributed it to belts reducing the number of distractions that drivers had to deal with.
2. Belts encourage students to stay in their seats.
Comparing buses with belts to those without, the North Carolina study found that belts brought a 9% reduction in students getting up from their seat while the buses were in motion. Also, there was only loose compliance enforcement, so that number could be higher in districts where belt usage is strictly enforced.
3. Belts keep students calmer.
One somewhat surprising finding is that belts encouraged students to be more calm, and more quiet. Palmer presented video recordings of students in both belted and non-belted buses, and the videos of belted students were noticeably quieter. He also believed this translated to students being calmer and more ready for school upon arrival.
4. Belts raised driver satisfaction.
Drivers of buses with belts reported substantially higher job satisfaction than those on buses without, directly attributing belt usage to a reduction in distractions. Besides the obvious safety benefits of less-distracted drivers, this means belts might be another way to increase bus driver retention. With so many districts fighting to hang onto their drivers, that is a major side benefit.
In short, there's more reason than ever to think school bus seat belts are a worthwhile investment. Do you agree? Let's discuss it in the comments below!