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02Jul2018

Secured School Bus Seating – Future of School Bus Safety

If you have wondered about your child’s safety when travelling on the school bus, it is true that school buses are designed to be the safest vehicles to ply on the roads. They are designed with a view to provide secure seating for the children that they are supposed to carry. This article discusses the safety aspects of school bus seats and improved design considerations for the future.

Bus Seats – Compartmentalization Design

School buses are designed in accordance with a unique design aspect called ‘compartmentalization’. It is intended to protect the passive occupants of the bus. The seats of the bus are constructed with impact-absorbing steel and have high and padded seats (on the front and back). These are firmly secured to the floor of the bus.

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In case a collision does occur, this compartmental design absorbs the impact and disperses throughout the occupant’s body instead of head and neck alone.  You would have seen eggs placed in a carton and this is much like it.

Use of CSRS (Child Safety Restraint Systems)

The safety restraint is brought into effect with the use of lap belts, harness straps and chest clips. Whereas lap belts are more suited for older children that do not fit into the CSRS category, it is important for you to remember the fact that these belts do not provide any protection to the upper body parts such as the head, neck and spine.

For CSRS to be properly used on school bus seats, the size and spacing of  seats  are important considerations. Commonly, a seat with a width of 39 inches or greater can accommodate either two CSRSs or one CSRS together with an older child that does not need CSRS. Any seat with a less width can safely accommodate  a single CSRS.

Another point in consideration is the seat spacing. The potential for injury on collision is reduced when the seat spacing is a maximum. When seats are narrowly spaced, you may not be able to secure the CSRSs appropriately. This factor, however, affects the seating capacity of the vehicle.

CSRSs are compulsory under the following conditions:

•    Students younger than five years old (Rear-facing CSRS for children less than 2 years old)

•    Students weighing less than 50 pounds

•    Students that have special needs

General Considerations

Every aspect of the school bus design is towards protecting the passengers on board from the impact of a collision. Some seat design considerations that support this requirement are as follows:

•    Bus seats are placed on the floor at a level above the impact zone where any automobile would hit the school bus.

•    There are no sharp edges in the bus interiors close to the seats; they are all rounded and smooth

Future of Secured School Bus Seating

With increased traffic and incidences of bus crashes, you may often wonder if school bus seating can get any safer. A lot of research is taking place in this area and it is believed that the new technologies can actually alleviate this worry.

Airbags: Placing airbags both in the front and on the sides of seats so that the interior can inflate itself is a good idea. This will prevent the occupants from slamming into the sides or front seats of the bus in case of a collision. Researchers are finding out ways to make them more affordable for school buses.

Smart Seats: These seats, in addition to reducing head and neck trauma, will have built-in indicators that tell the observer that they are too old to be reliable in a collision. Only such seats need to be replaced from time to time.

Wider Aisles: For the future, schools may consider seats with two different widths: one side can be sized big enough to accommodate 2 child-safe seats, and the other side with 30-inch wide seats to accommodate 1 child-safe seat. This also will make way for a wider aisle.

Conclusion

With school bus owners of today striving to make seating in school buses more secure, there always seems to be a trade-off when the costs loom large. Newer technologies in the form of airbags and smart seats seem to tilt the debate in favour of safety with every attempt being made to manufacture them with less cost.

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