Padding, Not Seat Belts, Backed For School Buses

Posted: January 20, 1986

The Centennial school board has voiced its opposition to making seat belts in school buses mandatory, favoring instead a system of padded seats, such as those in the district's newer buses.

At a board meeting Tuesday night, members discussed a recent suggestion by U.S. Rep. Peter H. Kostmayer (D., Bucks) that federal legislation make seat belts mandatory in school buses. Board member George Kelly said that the board was against the legislation and that it preferred seats with padding on the fronts and backs.

John L. Rhodes, the district transportation officer, said a padded seat acted as a compartment for riders. He said it was felt by some that belts kept students in their seats but allowed their heads to be thrown back, with little support. The "compartment" allows the student to ride between two padded areas, he said.

"The issue is one that elicits a lot of emotion," Rhodes said, adding that the board was more concerned with providing escape hatches to be used in case of an accident.

Rhodes also said that a bigger issue was having the driver know where the children were when they were outside the bus. "More are hit outside the bus than in it; that's where you get the fatalities, not in the bus," he said.

Kelly said that, although the board was opposed to seat belts on buses, it would consider a Canadian study being conducted on the matter.

None of the district's buses has safety belts, Kelly said. If belts were mandatory, he said, there might be the problem of a child's using a belt as a weapon to strike another child.

Kelly said the board was concerned with students' safety. In many cases, he said, buses take longer routes in an effort to avoid dangerous hills or intersections.

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