Maple Ridge school bus operator says seatbelts a good discussion

Maple Ridge school bus operator says seatbelts a good discussion

People passing when lights flashing of greater concern

Transport Canada is looking at whether children should be wearing seatbelts on school buses.

The company that brings Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows children to school said efforts at improving safety might be better spent educating the public about not passing school buses as children get off at their stops.

Last month, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said his department will investigate whether new regulations are needed. Transport Canada has made seatbelts mandatory on medium and large highway buses as of September 2020, as a response to the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, but that change did not apply to school buses.

“I have instructed my department to take an in-depth look at the question of seatbelts in buses, a fresh look based on all of the evidence that has been collected since all the way back to 1984, and I look forward to their findings,” Garneau said in the House of Commons.

Transport Canada has taken the position that seatbelts do not improve passenger safety on school buses, citing the findings of a 1984 study of bus crashes. However, there have been recent media reports that Transport Canada did a 2010 study which showed seatbelts could reduce injuries. The results of that study were never reported.

Murray Nicholl is the managing director of Thirdwave Bus Services which contracts bus services to School District 42. The company, headquartered in Richmond, is in its first year of bussing for the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows district, and also operates in Surrey, Coquitlam, Abbotsford and other school districts.

“This is something that, as long as I’ve been in the industry, it’s been talked about,” he said of the seatbelt issue. “If the government makes it law, the buses will all have to have them.”

Nicholl noted that there are lap belts on all four of its small buses, used for special needs passengers, in District 42. None of its seven large buses have them.

Some buses could be retrofitted to add lap belts, but most are not designed to take both lap and shoulder belts, and it is not a simple fix, he said.

It would play havoc with the three-and-two seating arrangement on buses, which generally says seats are designed to accomodate three children in Grade 5 or lower, but should seat just two children aged Grade 6 and up.

Nicholl expects that if the government makes a change, it would likely be done in a way that “grandfathered” some of the old buses, but required belts on all new buses.

It will add expense – an estimated $10,000 to $15,000 per new bus, or a ten per cent premium, he said.

He said buses may be retrofitted to add lap belts at a cost of approximately $4,000 per bus, but this is not possible with all bus designs, he said.

Nicholl noted that when the 1984 study was done, it considered only lap belts, and not lap-and-shoulder belts, or three-point seatbelts.

“It’s good to start the discussion,” he said, and noted the public needs to be sure the government is considering its 2010 accident study’s findings.

However, he noted it is impossible to built a bus where occupants are 100 per cent safe, the number of children killed in school bus accidents has been “miniscule,” and they are more in danger when they get off the bus at the side of the road.

“They would be better off educating the public about not passing the bus when its lights are flashing,” he said. “They always get hurt outside the bus.”

Although they don’t have seatbelts, Nicholl said at lot of accident testing has been done on buses, and improvements in design keep passengers safe.

“They are built really solid, and they do really well in an impact.”

Transport Canada has a study that looked at school bus collisions over a 10-year period from 1995 to 2004. There 25,521 accidents, 3,427 injuries to school bus passengers, 980 injuries to school bus drivers and five deaths of school bus passengers.

“To give some perspective, among young people 18 years of age and under involved in collisions involving automobiles, light trucks and vans, 3,554 fatalities occurred over the 10-year period,” it said.

It notes that over the same time period there were improvements to buses:

• the structural integrity of the roof and joints in school buses;

• the structure and design of the seats and seat backs to absorb the energy of a collision and keep the passenger contained;

• windows designed to prevent the passenger from being ejected;

• additional mirrors for greater visibility in and around the bus; and

• improved swing arms and stop warning lamps to protect children when getting on or off the bus.

According to the Canada Safety Council they are already one of the safest methods of transportation – 16 times safer than travelling in a family car per passenger/kilometre of travel.

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

Just Posted

Caitlin Toews, operations director of The Asante Centre, says more supports are needed for people with FASD. (Special to The News)
More supports “urgently” needed for those living with FASD

Wait-lists for supports at Maple Ridge centre can mean the difference between life and death

Rich Goulet in 2015. (THE NEWS/files)
STM renames Chancellor Tournament for Rich Goulet

Iconic Pitt Meadows coach memorialized by the high school where he started

Scenes Gerald Bowers sees on his daily walks downtown. (Gerald Bowers/Special to The News)
Maple Ridge resident fed up of downtown garbage and vandalism

Downtown Maple Ridge BIA say graffiti incidents down

Members of UPlan have a Zoom meeting to discuss youth mental health in Maple Ridge - Pitt Meadows. (Zoom screenshot - Special to the News)
Student group wants to bring awareness to youth mental health

UPlan members discuss some of the challenges facing young people during the pandemic

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. The University of Victoria says Williams has resigned effective immediately. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

Lawsuit filed last summer accused Barney Williams of verbal abuse

Former B.C. premier Christy Clark. (Black Press Media files)
Former B.C. premier to testify at money laundering hearing today

Attorney General David Eby has been added to the witness list as well

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. to table budget that’s expected to deal with COVID-19 pandemic and beyond

Robinson released a fiscal update last December that said the impact of the pandemic on B.C.’s economy was uncertain

A man has died after being shot at Coquitlam’s Town Centre Park the evening of Monday, April 19. (Twitter/IHIT)
1 man dead after shooting at Coquitlam park: IHIT

The gunman is still at large, according to the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team

Paramedic Matthew Schlatter of Victoria is living a fuller life today due to the double lung transplant he received in 2019. He encourages B.C. residents to register as an organ donor and let their families know their wishes. (Instagram/Matthew Schlatter)
B.C. man living a full, active life after double-lung transplant

Matt Schlatter encourages people to register as an organ donor to help others live

Most Read