The Comox Valley school district has been taking a look at school bus safety. Photo by Mike Chouinard

Island district holds off school bus seatbelt retrofits

Compartmentalization of seats is key safety feature of buses, says Comox Valley report

While the school district in the Comox Valley is holding off on any major retrofit of school buses to add seatbelts, it’s not sitting in neutral.

District staff have put together a report for the board of education incorporating findings from broader reviews of the issue, including a couple of pilot projects, along with some local context for trustees to consider. This includes some recommendations.

The biggest consideration is whether to retrofit the buses. One complication is that regular school buses are all operated by First Student Canada, which has a contract with the district, meaning wording for any retrofit work would have to be added.

“It would require going back to the contractor and taking a look at the contract,” School District 71 superintendent Tom Demeo told the board.

Many bus manufacturers are making buses that are seat-belt ready. The district staff report estimates the cost to add belts would run between $8,000 and $18,000 per bus while retrofits of other buses would be between $15,000 and $36,000 per bus.

“A lot of the buses in fleets are not adequately prepared for seatbelts,” Demeo said. “Significant retrofitting would have to occur, and many of the manufacturers are producing buses that are retrofit-ready.”

The district also operates a small fleet of activity or mini buses with a capacity of 24 people and which do have seatbelts.

The staff report notes the central question of safety. The review here and in other districts across the country in recent years was prompted in part by an investigative piece on television suggesting current guidelines and practices, which do not require belts, are outdated and in situations such as side collisions can expose students to serious risk. The board asked staff to look into the matter at a meeting in December 2019.

“I feel that this is an important part of our due diligence,” board chair Sheila McDonnell said.

RELATED STORY: Comox Valley board wants answers on school bus seat belts

However, on the whole, the latest staff report says current design uses concepts such as compartmentalization – similar to how egg cartons protect eggs – with high-backed, padded seats to protect students.

Another consideration is the possibility that adding belts could require a change in the design of seats, which itself could increase the risk to students on the buses, as could the improper use of belts. There are also questions about safety in different types of accidents.

On a positive note, the report finds that students statistically are much safer riding on school buses than getting to school by other means: 72 times safer than those travelling by car or 45 times safer than those walking or riding a bike.

The district staff recommendations include continuing with the current practice of purchasing only activity buses with belts, monitoring the current pilot projects in Canada looking at belts on buses, following the provincial and federal guidelines around belts on buses and working with the contractor on the matter of bus safety and belts.

The report also mentions the potential for the risk to students when entering or exiting a bus. A national task force recommended measures such as infraction cameras, extended stop arms, exterior 360-degree cameras and automatic emergency braking. District director of operations Ian Heselgrave addressed these, saying they are related to busing that uses eight-way flasher systems for loading and offloading, whereas the Comox Valley system is different and in most locations has students wait until the buses leave to cross the road to ensure there are clear sightlines.

“It’s a much safer system,” he added.



mike.chouinard@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

School bus seatbelts

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

Just Posted

A concept of homes on Ronald Road as part of the Clark-Medd project. (Lantzville Projects Ltd. image)
Lantzville council moves along Clark-Medd project amid protest outside district hall

Council passes third readings of OCP amendment and zoning bylaw by 3-2 votes

Police executed a search warrant at a residence on Nicol Street in September 2017 in relation to a murder investigation. John Albert Buchanan was charged with second-degree murder. (News Bulletin file)
Murder trial begins in case of man who was beaten and died in Nanaimo’s south end

John Albert Buchanan charged with second-degree murder after 2017 incident on Nicol Street

A jail cell at the Nanaimo RCMP detachment. (News Bulletin file photo)
Woman reports she was injured by Nanaimo RCMP while being jailed

Independent Investigations Office of B.C. looking into Oct. 1 incident

B.C. Ferries has a mandatory mask policy on vessels and at terminals. (News Bulletin file photo)
UPDATE: No tickets for anti-maskers on B.C. Ferries

West Van Police say their intention was to ‘keep the peace’ after being called to terminal

Steven Michael Bacon pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder of Nanaimo teen Makayla Chang. (Photos submitted)
Accused pleads not guilty in Nanaimo teen’s 2017 murder

Steven Bacon appeared in Nanaimo court Monday via video link from Thunder Bay

Conservative member of Parliament Pierre Poilievre speaks during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on October 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals say Tory effort to set up COVID-19 committee will be a confidence matter

The Tories were originally proposing an ‘anticorruption’ committee

Working smoothly together on May 11, 2020, health minister Adrian Dix, B.C. Liberal health critic Norm Letnick, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and sign language interpreter Nigel Howard. (B.C. government video)
COVID-19 co-operation a casualty of B.C.’s pandemic election

NDP’s Horgan weaponizes senior care, B.C. Liberal Wilkinson calls for ‘wartime economy’

A 34-year-old man was treated for a gunshot wound in Williams Lake Monday, Oct 19, 2020. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake man treated for gunshot wound after accidental shooting: RCMP

Police are reminding residents to ensure firearms are not loaded when handling them

Candidates in the Nanaimo riding include Kathleen Jones, B.C. Liberal Party, top left; Sheila Malcolmson, NDP; Lia Versaevel, Green Party. (Photos submitted/News Bulletin photo/Elections B.C. image)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Nanaimo candidates

Provincial election candidates discuss their priorities in their own words

Candidates in the Nanaimo-North Cowichan riding include Chris Istace, B.C. Green Party, top left; Duck Paterson, B.C. Liberals; and Doug Routley, NDP. (Photos submitted/Elections B.C. image)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Nanaimo-North Cowichan candidates

Provincial election candidates discuss their priorities in their own words

Candidates in the Parksville-Qualicum riding include Rob Lyon, B.C. Green Party, top left; Don Purdey, Conservatives; John St. John, independent; Michelle Stilwell, B.C. Liberals; and Adam Walker, B.C. NDP. (Photos submitted/Elections B.C. image)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Parksville-Qualicum candidates

Provincial election candidates discuss their priorities in their own words

A injection kit is seen inside the newly opened Fraser Health supervised consumption site is pictured in Surrey, B.C., Tuesday, June 6, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. records 127 fatal overdoses in September, roughly 4 each day

Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria continued to see the highest numbers of overdoses

Investigators work at the Sagmoen farm in Silver Creek. - Image credit: Observer file photo.
Sex workers allegedly called to farm of Okanagan man convicted of assault, RCMP investigating

Curtis Sagmoen, convicted in relation to assault of sex trade workers, is prohibited from soliciting escorts

(Black Press Media files)
Early voters more likely to favour NDP, but overall B.C. election is tightening: poll

According to Elections BC, 383,477 people cast a ballot during advanced voting days

Most Read