In an ongoing attempt to mitigate the exposure of COVID-19 on the school bus and protect school bus drivers and students, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) permitted the installation of both plexiglass barriers and clear plastic soft shields under certain conditions.
Despite previous prohibitions in some states, these barriers can be used as long as they meet certain window glazing requirements and comply with applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards. Plastic soft shields would be installed to the right of and behind the driver, and/or installed throughout the passenger compartments by attachment to the interior roof and to the seatback of passenger seats.
NHTSA stated that it considers plexiglass barriers installed in school buses as “interior partitions.”
Depending on where the partition is placed, NHTSA wrote that it may be considered a “requisite for driving visibility” and subjected to height requirements. Requisite for driving visibility for school buses includes windows to the immediate right or left of the driver and the front windshield. Any portion of glazing that the driver would have to see through to look out windows would also be considered requisite for driving visibility. The part of the barrier behind the driver area is not requisite for driving visibility and instead has additional compliance options for items allowed to be used. NHTSA said it considers soft shields as “flexible curtains.”
“Visibility is particularly important for school buses, as not only are school buses engaged in the transportation of children, they also make frequent stops,” NHTSA stated. “Installers should ensure that installation of a partition or curtain, particularly one situated in an area requisite for driving visibility, does not create glare or otherwise reduce the driver’s ability to see embarking and disembarking students and other road users.”