School bus drivers in British Columbia, Canada could soon see three-point seatbelts on school buses as a result of newly introduced legislation to require their installation.
Legislative Assemblymember Laurie Throness and longtime school bus driver Gary Lillico teamed up to introduce a private members bill that requires all new school buses coming into service in British Columbia, Canada after September 2021 to have three-point seatbelts installed.
Lillico started a petition about a year ago calling for seatbelts in Canadian school buses. The drive captured the attention of Throness. As of this writing, the petition had more than 125,000 signatures.
In an announcement on Monday last week, Throness and Lillico announced the bill, the “Motor Vehicle Amendment Act.”
Throness started researching the topic after learning about the petition and its growing popularity. He said he was influenced to make a change after seeing inside video footage of a school bus crash and children being thrown out of their seats.
Lillico said that besides reducing injuries and deaths, seatbelts could decrease onboard bullying and improve overall student behavior.
As a school bus driver, Lillico said keeping students in their seats is important since he has seen several dangerous incidents. He has had kindergarteners come up and tug at his arm while he was driving 100 km an hour [62 mph] down the road. He also recalled an instance when a student jumped from seat to seat while he was driving over a bridge. Lilico explained that couldn’t stop the bus until he got to the other side of the bridge.
Lillico also recounted a 2008 school bus crash in Canada that particularly affected him. In 2008, 12th-grade student Jennifer Noble was killed after a vehicle rear-ended the back of her school bus. Lillico said that Noble’s mother was a first responder and one of the first people on the scene.
This crash, he said, influenced Transport Canada’s 2010 study, which concluded that compartmentation of students between high seat backs fails to protect students in side-impact or roll-over crashes.
[Editor’s Note: Transport Canada is the federal agency that is responsible for developing regulations and policies involving road, rail, marine and air transportation.]
Despite the Transport Canada study being conducted in 2010, it wasn’t released publicly until October 2018, when CBC aired it in its investigative report show, The Fifth Estate. CBC claimed in its segment, “Unbuckled: School Bus Safety,” that government officials kept the information hidden from the public.
Lillico said he started his petition for seatbelts in response to the release of the study.
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When asked how to mandate the use of the seatbelts, Lillico referenced the experience of California and the success the state has documented with three-point seatbelts since mandating them in all newly manufactured school buses since July 1, 2005. School bus drivers in California are also required to walk the bus and inform all students as they board to wear their safety restraints.
Throness said it is routine to put a seatbelt on when entering a vehicle and does not foresee a problem with students not wanting to comply.
While Lillico noted he would love it if all school buses were retrofitted with the safety restraints, he said that fiscally such a requirement would be a burden to school districts if it was required in the bill.