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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

Central Indiana school district buying buses with seat belts

Another Indiana school district has decided to add seat belts to its school buses.

SHELBY COUNTY, Ind. (WTHR) - Another Indiana school district has decided to add seat belts to its school buses.

The Shelby Eastern school board just voted unanimously to make the change, one new bus at a time.

Crash tests like one in Hamilton County last year, involving a semi vs. a school bus, really drive the point home.

Crash dummies wearing seat belts were ok.

Some without seat belts get ejected from the bus.

That potential danger is part of the reason the Shelby Eastern School Corporation wanted to get ahead of safety changes.

It's the second district in Shelby County (Northwestern Consolidated School District being the other) to decide that every bus purchased from now on, will come with seat belts.

"They all come with three belts per seat," explained Shelby Eastern Transportation Director Jeff Scott. "So just like a car, got to get it adjusted."

The school district plans to purchase one new bus per year.

They received their first bus, outfitted with seat belts, a couple of weeks ago and plan to put it into service by the first of the year.

A lap and shoulder harness for each child is in each seat, at a cost of about $400 more per seat than the old buses.

New district policy says if the belts are there, students have to wear them.

"This will be just another bus rule to get used to," said Shelby Eastern Superintendent Dr. Robert Evans.

"It keeps everybody from sitting sideways, talking, where there is no protection," Scott said. "So it keeps everybody safe like the seats were designed to do."

"Beyond that, it seems to positively affect discipline. Students who are in their seats more are less likely to be jumping up and down when the bus is riding and so you have more of a controlled environment throughout," Evans added.

Several school corporations in Fort Wayne have made changes to their fleet by adding seat belts.

But right now, Indiana law does not require seat belts on school buses, except for preschoolers.

Eight states nationwide do have laws in place - New York, New Jersey, Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Nevada and California.

Several more states are considering making seat belts mandatory.

A deadly crash in New Jersey, involving a school bus this past spring, sparked a renewed push for safety.

"It's a good move to keep everybody in place," Scott said. "I think it's a good idea.

Scott says he's heard from bus drivers in other districts who say seat belts have been a success.

At Northwest Consolidated, for example, which now has three buses with seat belts, their transportation director said at first, drivers were hesitant to drive those buses. There was a concern about added responsibility, that they'd be held liable if students didn't stay buckled up.

But after a few months, drivers are now requesting to take the wheel of buses with seat belts. Discipline alone has improved that much because of the belts.

Better discipline and crash protection is why they're being proactive now in Shelby Eastern, one new bus at a time.

All of the students who ride the bus in Shelby Eastern Schools will be given training over the next several weeks on how to use the seat belts and what the expectations are now on the bus.