Three-point, lap-shoulder seat belts will treat and hopefully not trick some Des Moines Public Schools bus riders on Halloween as the district begins testing the occupant restraints.
A Thomas Built Buses Saf-T-Liner C2 school buses equipped with three-point belts from SynTec Seating Solutions began rolling Halloween morning for students attending 12 different campuses. The district said a second similarly equipped bus is expected to arrive in December.
The state of Iowa already allows local school districts to specify lap-shoulder belts on buses. But, to date, no districts aside from Des Moines has had the safety restraints installed.
DMPS said in a statement that school buses remain the safest mode of transportation to and from school, as crashes are rare. But Todd Liston, the district’s transportation director, said the apparent viability of lap-shoulder belts as additional safety equipment warrant a trial.
“We have several questions,” Liston added. “Among them, will the students use the seat belts or are they a distraction? Can the students secure themselves, or would they need assistance getting in and out of their seats, possibly causing a hazard if quick evacuation of the bus became necessary? All of these things need to be studied.”
SynTec is overseeing the study and converted both buses to be equipped with three-point belts. Shane Wright, SynTec's dealer account manager, said that Des Moines Public Schools was already in the process of ordering new C2 school buses when the idea for the study was hatched.
Wright added that the district agreed to purchase the two new C2s with the S3C convertible seat equipped in all student rider positions and in both buses. SynTec agreed to convert the plain-back seats to seats with the three-point seat belts and cover the cost.
Wright also told STN that the buses will be rotated and used for many different routes for the remainder of the school year, serving elementary, middle and high school students.
"This is going to be a big deal," he added. "Todd Liston is going about this in an intelligent, professional way."