Transport Canada looks to set up guidelines for seat belts on school buses

A school bus from the Central Okanagan School District.
Image Credit: FILE PHOTO

OTTAWA - The federal government is proposing regulations for Canadian school bus operators who want to put seat belts on their vehicles.

In an online notice, Transport Canada says the proposal would improve safety for children caught up in severe crashes, especially rollovers.

As it is, the key requirements on buses are to have high-back padded seats closely spaced together, known as compartmentalization, to protect riders without the need for seat belts.

The agency says Canada has no requirements for seat belts on any size of school bus, meaning there is no way to ensure that seat belts put on some buses are installed safely and correctly.

School buses can have lap-only seat belts, but Transport Canada says they can raise the risk of injury compared to existing features on buses, which is why the agency is looking to require over-the-shoulder belts instead.

The proposed regulations in the Canada Gazette stress that school buses are safe to ride.

There hasn't been a single child fatality on a school bus in Canada since 2008 and only one per cent of all school-age child fatalities in the preceding decade were on a school bus.

Transport Canada says children are over 16 times more likely to be killed walking to school than while riding a school bus.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story, a previous version wrongly suggested Transport Canada was proposing mandatory introduction of seat belts on school buses

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