Okanagan councillor wants to see seat belts on school buses - InfoNews

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Okanagan councillor wants to see seat belts on school buses

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May 27, 2019 - 8:30 AM

LAKE COUNTRY - Lake Country council is adding its voice to a growing number of people calling for seatbelts to be installed on school buses.

“It’s an issue for our children,” said Coun. Penny Gambell, who raised the topic with council after learning the Central Okanagan school trustees association had raised a motion at the recent B.C. School Trustees Association annual general meeting, urging the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Transportation to fully fund the implementation of any changes proposed by the federal minister of transportation’s task force on school bus safety.

Gambell’s aim is to see it introduced at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention as a late resolution.

“(Children) are riding on these buses without seatbelts and somehow — even though it’s illegal to ride without seatbelts in our cars — it’s supposed to be safe for the future of our country. It doesn’t seem like the responsible thing to do.” 

Gambell said she’s spoken to parents in the community who have also “given their heads a shake” about the countrywide inertia to address this shortcoming.

“In some cases it’s because it’s too expensive — well, it was expensive back in the day when we had to buy cars with seatbelts, too,” she said. 

None of the Central Okanagan School District’s 93 school buses have seatbelts.

A petition on change.org called Seatbelts for Canadian School Buses, Now! has collected more than 95,000 signatures in the last year.

It says a previously unreleased 2010 Transport Canada test crash study revealed that school buses failed safety tests and failed to prevent serious injuries in the event of side-impact or rollover crashes.

In a statement from 2018, Transport Canada said seat belts have a proven safety record.

“When they are used and installed properly, seat belts on school buses can offer another layer of safety to complement the existing, highly effective protection provided by compartmentalization,” reads the statement.

“Compartmentalization allows children to be protected by high back seats, made from energy absorbing material that cushion the impact in a collision. These seats have strong anchorages and are spaced closely together to create compartments.”

If seat belts are not used or installed the right way on school buses, they could have a negative impact on safety. Making sure all children are properly secured in seat belts is a lot more challenging in a 70-passenger school bus than in a five-passenger car or seven-passenger minivan.

This is one of the reasons it allows provinces, territories and school bus operators to decide whether to install seat belts. They are ultimately responsible for school bus operations.

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