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To continue our ongoing discussion of seat and lap-shoulder belts, we have found that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is seeking school districts that are interested in equipping school buses with lap-shoulder seat belts, to participate in a five-year study on how the occupant restraints affect on-board student behavior.

NHTSA issued an RFP (request for proposal) to select a contractor to determine the indirect effects of the three-point seat belts.  Several transportation officials have said that their use of lap-shoulder belts has improved student behavior and limited driver distraction.

This past November at the National Association for State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services annual conference in Columbus, Ohio, NHTSA Highway Safety Specialist Jeremy Gunderson told attendees that the agency seeks to use projects such as this study to correct misinformation regarding the seat belt issue, since it receives several questions each month on the topic.

The first step in NHTSA’s project is to identify existing research on how lap-shoulder belts can improve student behavior on the bus, notably by keeping them seated face forward.   “This will ensure (that) a baseline measure of possible indirect effects is captured,” NHTSA writes in the RPF. “This project would also require that the selected jurisdiction plan to implement an education component for bus drivers, students, parents, teachers and other school officials, to emphasize the importance of using seat belts on school buses.”

The winning contractor will be required to identify and analyze existing research on the evaluated indirect effects of lap-shoulder belts, as well as collect and analyze data from school districts selected to participate in the study.

A full report is due to NHTSA for review within 46 months of awarding the contract, with a final report due to be completed and published by 60 months.

Any effort to keep our children safe is worth the time and research.

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