School District 71 will be taking a closer at the question of having seat belts in school buses.
Trustee Sheila McDonnell made a motion at the Dec. 17 board of education meeting, calling for the superintendent to review the current science and other research around requirements for seat belts in buses that carry district students. The board unanimously supported the motion.
She had brought up the topic in 2018 following the airing of a TV expose looking into questions around previous research that suggested belts did not make buses safer.
“It was really based on pretty inadequate review,” McDonnell said.
Some of the concerns surrounded two-point-connection belts with lap straps but no shoulder straps and whether these can increase the likelihood of injury. There are also questions around differences between side-impact versus front-impact collisions.
McDonnell said the board did not move further ahead when she first brought up the matter.
“The decision at that point was just to wait and see if Transport Canada changed their perspective,” she said.
This summer, a House of Commons committee declined to call for the installation of belts in school buses.
McDonnell also said there has been legislation introduced in the B.C. legislature calling for the installation of belts in any new school buses. She said a school bus driver was the one who initiated this because of his own safety concerns.
She also touched on the recent fatal crash near the Vancouver Island community of Bamfield involving university students thrown from a bus.
“I think that we need to look more closely at this, and I think that we should take it really seriously,” she said.
Trustee Michelle Waite said the district was expecting recommendations from a Transport Canada task force on the matter to be released in January. She wondered how the superintendent should approach this new information for his report and whether they should attach a timeline to the request, but McDonnell responded that she expected the report back in a timely manner.