IMMI, the manufacturer of the SafeGuard line of seat belts and child restraint systems for school buses and other vehicles, crashed a school bus head-on into a concrete barrier at 25 mph to demonstrate the impact lap-shoulder seat belts can have on students.
The live demonstration, titled "School Bus Safety 101," was held Aug. 8 at IMMI's Center for Advanced Product Evaluation (CAPE) at company headquarters in Westfield, Ind. CAPE is an award-winning, crash-test facility that IMMI said has crash tested more school bus seats than any other similar facility in the world. The simulated crash during the demonstration used the largest barrier block in the world.
Cheryl Wolf, a special needs transportation consultant based in the Indianapolis area, reported for School Transportation News that the bus used in the test was a 1998 model-year Type C conventional school bus designed for 68 passengers. The bus was sent down an 800-foot track before coming into contact with the barrier wall. On board the bus were several crash dummies that simulated young children and teens.
Upon impact, Wolf said the front end of the bus crumpled, rendering the service door inoperable. The crash forces separated the chassis from the bus body, with the chassis being moved backward about 16 inches.
Video cameras were mounted on board the bus to show the audience what happened to belted as well as unbelted passengers. The dummies that were unrestrained were thrown from their bus seats, while those restrained in three-point, lap-shoulder belts struck the back of the cushioned seats in front of them but otherwise remained within their compartmentalized area.
Wolf said one crash dummy not restrained in a three-point seat belt exhibited severe whiplash, so much so that she said Dr. Marilyn Bull and Dr. Joe O'Neil from nearby Riley's Children's Hospital told her that a real student would have undoubtedly suffered a severe spinal chord injury.
Wolf added that every audience member, no matter how far back from the demonstration, said they felt the crash forces. She added that the audience consisted of representatives of the NTSB, PTA representatives, firefighters, police officers, school bus drivers, school bus driver trainers and members of NASDPTS.
"Every day, school districts deal with student injuries, bullies, bad behavior and distracted drivers on their school buses," said IMMI CEO Larry Gray. "At IMMI, we're committed to child passenger safety, and we know there are no more excuses for putting our children at risk. That's why we decided to hold our SafeGuard: School Bus Safety 101 event. The solutions are out there, but there is too much misinformation getting in the way of progress."
Also attendance was Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana, who said the demonstration should be viewed by all parents who have children on the school bus.
"We need to do more to make our children safe on school buses," she added.
According to a SafeGuard survey conducted last October,93 percent of school bus drivers have witnessed bullying on their school bus, which the company said can seat belts can have a positive effect on. Meanwhile, 85 percent of parents said they want the added protection lap-shoulder belts provide.