AVON LAKE, Ohio– Avon Lake City Schools is planning a school bus seat belt pilot program next spring.
The district started looking into the idea of seat belts on school buses after several bus crashes got national attention.
About 2,800 students take the bus to and from school in Avon Lake City Schools.
“The safety of those kids and the safety of our bus fleet is a huge issue for us all the time,” said Superintendent Bob Scott.
Seat belts are only required by the federal government on small school buses weighing 10,000 pounds or less. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, large school buses are built to minimize injury in the event of a crash and that’s why seat belts are not mandated.
In spring 2019, Avon Lake City Schools will be buying a new school bus and it will be the district’s first bus with seat belts. Scott said bus drivers and transportation administration will evaluate how the seat belts function.
“We really want to look at the logistics and we want to see it for ourselves. And we want our bus drivers to say, once we get the routine in place, just like in the car, kids are going back and they are putting their seatbelts on and it’s working the way it’s supposed to work,” Scott said.
The district will use the bus to transport students to and from extracurricular activities that require longer travel like sporting events, band concerts and field trips.
“Where we know we are going to be out on the interstate and out on the highways, and running at a little higher speed that you do during our everyday pickups and drop offs,” Scott said.
Buses with seat belts cost about $10,000 to 15,000 more than a bus without seat belts. In Avon Lake, the buses are housed in a garage and have a longer lifespan than most buses at 16 to 18 years, so over the life of the bus the costs are minimal.
Scott said the district will evaluate the seat belts and how students handle them before making a decision to buy more buses with them. He said they could purchase up to seven buses with seat belts in the long run.