Folks at the Ermineskin Cree Nation unveiled the winners of their seatbelt awareness poster competition Monday, Feb. 22. (l-r) Const.Nicholas Fetterman, first Place Winner-Nolan Omeasoo-Minde - Grade 2 Ermineskin Elm, Kokum Lucinda Minde, mother of the winner Nicole Minde, and Constable Lin Tuapolo. Photo submitted

Committee of MPs decides against calling for school-bus seatbelts

Committee’s final report includes a number of recommendations to beef up safety requirements

A committee of MPs who probed bus-passenger safety in Canada has decided not to call for seatbelts to be installed in Canadian school buses, urging further study instead.

The House of Commons transportation committee launched an investigation into bus safety, including on school buses, following the deadly Humboldt Broncos crash in Saskatchewan last year that killed 16 people and injured 13.

The committee’s final report includes a number of recommendations to beef up safety requirements for passenger buses, including long-distance coaches and municipal transit buses.

But the committee says conflicting evidence from experts about seatbelts on school buses points to the need for further study.

READ MORE: Coroner calls for seatbelts on buses following Humboldt crash

“Throughout this study, the committee heard from witnesses about the complexity of evaluating potential improvements to bus passenger safety,” the report says.

“It was made clear to members that there is no ‘silver bullet’ that will definitively increase safety in all situations. Although seatbelts would undoubtedly prevent some serious injuries or fatalities, they are not the only solution to ensuring the safety of bus passengers in Canada.”

The issue of installing seatbelts on school buses has indeed proved to be polarizing.

Industry groups that represent bus companies say the current design of school buses already makes them among the safest modes of transportation. Transport Department officials presented evidence that reinforcing the structure of school buses to support three-point seatbelts could undermine the compartmentalization system that helps school buses absorb an impact — a change that could increase the risk of injury.

Unions and associations that represent bus drivers raised concerns about liability when it comes to making sure children are properly belted for trips to and from school. They also said mandatory seatbelts on school buses would have significant operational impacts, such as an increase in transit times, which could exacerbate an ongoing driver shortage.

Cost is another complaint, with estimates for retrofitting school buses pegged at anywhere between $8,000 and $20,000 per bus.

In January, Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced a task force to look at the possibility of retrofitting school buses with seatbelts. It has involved the input of provinces, territories, school boards and school-bus manufacturers.

As part of its submission to the committee, the Ontario School Bus Association stressed the need for the task force to be given adequate time to complete a proper study, warning that a hurried probe would undermine the goal of making children on buses safer.

The committee said it supports the work of the task force and encouraged the government to “seriously consider” implementing any recommendations it generates.

But parents and concerned citizens across the country who have been calling for belts are getting impatient at being told to wait for more studies.

They point to deadly crashes over the years where children have died or sustained serious injuries in school bus collisions.

Gary Lillico, a bus driver in British Columbia, has amassed over 99,000 signatures on a Change.org petition calling for mandatory school bus seatbelts. He also recently helped organize a last-minute petition to be tabled in the House of Commons in the hopes of getting the government to act before the end of the school year.

He says he is disappointed MPs are passing the buck on this issue despite the evidence they heard.

“It’s very upsetting that, after eight months, that they’re just pushing this aside,” Lillico said of the committee’s findings.

“What is it going to take? How many lives? With the time they’ve had, there should be much more result.”

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Board of Education hires independent consultant to review SD82 reassignments

Review will not change recent decisions but will gather input, says board chair

Prince Rupert marine business adds second catamaran to its fleet

100-passenger Aurora was launched this year for the Rio Tinto Kemano tunnel project

Indigenous voices finally heard with final MMIWG report, says Northwest B.C. advocate

The report contains more than 200 recommendations to multiple levels of government

Terrace-area gold project shows strong promise

Juggernaut Exploration hopes this year’s drilling will follow last year’s exceptional program

New protocol will better assist victims of sexual assault

Victims of sexual assault are set to benefit from the completion of… Continue reading

PHOTOS: Elusive ‘ghost whale’ surfaces near Campbell River

Ecotourism operator captures images of the rare white orca

Victoria mom describes finding son ‘gone’ on first day of coroners inquest into overdose death

Resulting recommendations could change handling of youth records amidst the overdose crisis

Dash-cam video in trial of accused cop killer shows man with a gun

Footage is shown at trial of Oscar Arfmann, charged with killing Const. John Davidson of Abbotsford

Suicide confirmed in case of B.C. father who’d been missing for months

2018 disappearance sparked massive search for Ben Kilmer

Eight U.S. senators write to John Horgan over B.C. mining pollution

The dispute stems from Teck Resources’ coal mines in B.C.’s Elk Valley

Threats charge against Surrey’s Jaspal Atwal stayed

Atwal, 64, was at centre of controversy in 2018 over his attendance at prime minister’s reception in India

Anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to speak in Surrey

He’s keynote speaker at Surrey Environment and Business Awards luncheon by Surrey Board of Trade Sept. 17

Otters devour 150 trout at Kootenay hatchery

The hatchery has lost close to 150 fish in the past several months

B.C. church’s Pride flag defaced for second time in 12 days

Delta’s Ladner United Church says it will continue to fly the flag for Pride month

Most Read