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Seat belts for school buses to get trial run in one mountain county

A new project for the 2016-2017 school year has three new school buses in Transylvania County trying tout lap-shoulder seat belts. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

TRANSYLVANIA COUNTY, N.C. -- A new project for the 2016-2017 school year has three new school buses in Transylvania County trying tout lap-shoulder seat belts.

Over the past decade, lap/shoulder belt technology has developed and is becoming used in many school districts across the country. The State of California has required lap/shoulder belts to be installed in all new school buses since 2005. Previous pilot projects in North Carolina have achieved favorable results.

During the past year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has conducted hearings in which the benefits of using lap/shoulder belts on school buses have been shared. Dr. Mark Rosekind, Administrator of NHTSA, stated the administration’s new position during a meeting of school transportation professionals last year: “Every child on every school bus should have a three-point seat belt.”

According to Transportation Section Chief Derek Graham, with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, “We are hearing about a shortage of school bus drivers across the state, compounded in part by drivers leaving the profession due to discipline issues on the bus. We believe this technology can improve student behavior on the bus, let the driver focus on driving, and at the same time provide enhanced safety for student passengers. It’s a win, win, win and Transylvania County Schools is to be commended for taking this initiative.”

According to Director of Transportation Alan Justice, “Our top priority in school bus transportation is to get students to school and home again safely. Students know they are safer wearing a seatbelt in the car, so it makes sense they should have that opportunity in a school bus.”

Justice noted that the seatbelts are the latest in a series of initiatives proven to improve driver effectiveness and student safety. Twelve yellow buses in Transylvania County were recently outfitted with a full suite of eight cameras each, including stop-arm cameras that closely monitor the behavior of drivers passing buses stopped on the roadway.

Every yellow bus in the Transylvania County Schools fleet has at least two cameras, and before the start of school in August, GPS tracking will be installed on all yellow buses and five additional activity buses (white buses).

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