Most school buses don’t come equipped with seat belts. When you stop to think about it, that is a little strange.
Seat belts are required in most other automotive vehicles and police can even issue a ticket if a driver or their passenger fail to buckle up. So why don’t we require that our young children wear seat belts during their travels to and from school?
Yesterday (November 18), Laurie Throness, the Liberal MLA for Chilliwack-Kentt, introduced a private-member’s bill that might change that. He’s suggested an amendment to the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act that would require that all new school buses come with a seat belt for every rider.
Private-member’s bills seldom receive enough votes to become law. But Throness’s support for the idea lends weight to calls for school bus seat belts that until now have received little attention.
Gary Lillico, a school-bus driver based in Harrison Hot Springs told the Globe and Mail that he wants seat belts on the vehicles he used to transport children.
“I’ve got a couple of little kindergartners, and I barrel down the highway from Agassiz towards Chilliwack,” Lillico said. “They get up, walk down and tug me on the shirt while I’m driving at 100 kilometres an hour. It’s pretty distracting and pretty unsafe.”
Between 1999 and 2016, there were 19 deaths involving school buses, according to Transport Canada. That’s barely more than one per year, but there are many more injuries. During that period, Transport Canada recorded about 6,700 incidents where a child on a school bus was hurt.
While everyone agrees that safety on school buses is always worth improving, how that can best be accomplished remains a matter of debate.
Federal Transportation Minister Marc Garneau appointed a task force to study the issue last January.
Interest groups such as the Association of School Transportation Services of B.C. have said they want to review the tank force’s findings before voicing support for any one measure.
A report by CTV News notes that opponents of the seat-belt idea argue there are more efficient ways of improving safety on school buses. They recommend additional training for drivers and enhanced safety education for students, among other suggestions.