Safe school bus protocol, no seat belts - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Safe school bus protocol, no seat belts

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One crash in Tunbridge Friday sent five kids to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Like most kids on school busses, they were not wearing seatbelts.

Patrick McManamom oversees school bus safety with Vermont's Department of Motor Vehicles.
He said each accident has its own set of circumstances, including a driver who rear-ended one bus, and icy roads that caused trouble for another. "They're all different -- for instance, one of them was a tractor trailer that hit the bus' mirror -- that definitely wasn't the bus' fault," he said.

Regardless of who or what is at fault -- some, like Milton Fire Chief Don Turner, said the accidents are a sure sign seatbelts onboard could make things more safe. "You know we require seat belts in everything else, so I am not sure why we don't in school busses. I know they say they're designed to so you don't need them, but in the number of accidents that I have seen over the years I don't know why we don't have seatbelts in school busses," he said.

McManamon said today's busses, with their padded high seats, are designed with safety in mind and that in some cases seatbelts can cause more harm than good.  "A school bus, the interior of a school bus is like an egg crate and as long as a child is in their seat, it is extremely safe -- they're basically in a compartment," he said.

McManamon says he's constantly evaluating safety on board and working with a team across the state to make sure bus drivers, no matter their district, have the licenses and training that's required. He wants others on the road to know they can help by avoiding a few things. "One is inattentiveness -- it could be either you're on your cell phone, you're talking, your texting or it could just be a number of things," he said. He said no matter what wheel you're behind, the goal should be the same. "Our children are our most precious commodity and we want to make sure they're safe."

McManamon said in addition to individual crash investigations, a team of inspectors is routinely making unannounced bus safety inspections.

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