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Top Federal Transportation Safety Officials to Address School Bus Industry

from NAPT

The heads of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will make keynote addresses to the school bus industry during the Nov. 6-10 annual conference of the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) in Richmond, VA.

According to NAPT Executive Director Michael Martin, NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart and NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind are each going to address a joint session of NAPT and the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS). Hart and Rosekind are expected to offer their views on how the safety record of yellow school buses — the best in the transportation sector— could be improved.

"We very much look forward to hearing, reading, analyzing and discussing what they have to say in Richmond", said Martin.

In July 2015, Rosekind convened a meeting "...to discuss how we might better protect children when they ride school buses" after which he promised "[T]he NHTSA team will be able to identify operational and policy challenges and solutions, and explore innovative funding approaches that could serve as a catalyst for change in the coming months."

Hart's agency recommended in 2013 that NAPT, NASDPTS and the National School Transportation Association "Provide your members with educational materials on lap and shoulder belts providing the highest level of protection for school bus passengers, and advise states or school districts to consider this added safety benefit when purchasing seat belt-equipped school buses."

"The starting point for any conversation about school buses must be that parents should have strong confidence in the safety of their child's school bus", said Keith Henry, CDPT, NAPT President (Lee's Summit R7 Schools, MO). "NHTSA says, "School buses are designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in avoiding crashes and preventing injury" and are "The safest mode of transportation for getting children back and forth to school."

Martin added, "NHTSA also says '[S]eat belts in large school buses may have some effect on reducing the risk of harm in frontal, side and rollover crashes, since seat belts can help restrain occupants within the seat and prevent their ejection and impact with interior surfaces.'"

According to Henry, "NAPT strongly encourages Chairman Hart and particularly Administrator Rosekind to explain clearly and unambiguously to local officials across the country why optional equipment like seat belts should be selected over other available choices that might also improve school transportation safety. This is important because NHTSA has previously said 'requiring seat belts on large school buses is likely to have the effect of increasing fatalities related to school transportation' and did an analysis that shows '...a National lap/shoulder belt requirement for large school buses could result in an increase of 10 to 19 student fatalities annually in the US.'"

Absent a federal requirement for belts, Martin said NAPT agrees with NHTSA's last published position: "We believe that it is most appropriate if the decision to order seat belts on large school buses were left to the States and local jurisdictions rather than to NHTSA. States and local school districts are better able to recognize and analyze school transportation risks particular to their areas and identify approaches to best manage and reduce those safety risks. Local officials are in the best position to decide whether to purchase seat belts, since the officials must weigh a multitude of unique considerations bearing on purchasing decisions, especially when faced with budgetary constraints."

"These will be 'not to be missed' sessions for school bus professionals," Martin added. "There is still time to register for the conference if you want to be there to see and hear either or both of these important presentations".

For more information, visit: www.napt.org/summit. more


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