School Bus Collision Summary, Canada 1989-1997: Regulatory Impact
Fuel Tank Impact
In two cases, school buses were struck very hard in the area of the fuel tank without loss of fuel.
The fuel integrity standard appears to be effective in protecting non-pressurized fuel tanks. The fact that two children died in a propane fire indicate that the design of this type of fuel system bears consideration. Of concern is the fact that in one case the seat covering material burned from the top down in approximately six minutes when ignited by a flame above the seats. The requirements for fire resistant seat covering should be re-examined.
In all of the cases in which the primary exit was blocked, occupants were able to leave the bus through the emergency exits. In the case of the propane fatality, children were able to escape via the rear emergency exits. In one case, investigators expressed concern that the rear door might be too heavy to open if the bus had rolled on the other side but the exits seemed to be effective.
There were no children ejected through any of the bus body joints nor were any injured by separated joints. In one case, however, a body joint separated above the entrance door and presented a sharp edge.
The location of the separation was not considered to be covered by the standard because it was in a maintenance area. Perhaps this exemption should be reconsidered.
The visibility standards came into question in two cases where the bus was impacted by a truck approaching from the right side. A recent modification to the design of one type of new bus reduces the width of the front vertical structure considerably with the result that the right side visibility is greatly improved.
The problems associated with children being run over by their own school bus must be addressed. A passenger control device to ensure that disembarking children must stay far enough in front of a bus to remain visible to the driver should be considered for all buses. Amendments to the requirements for mirrors designed to improve the driver’s ability to see a child in front of or beside the bus became effective in 1997. Further improvements in this area, such as retro-fitting new mirror systems, and the use of monitors, will likely fall into the area of provincial/territorial jurisdiction since these jurisdictions deal with the operation of school buses.
Seat belts were an issue in four cases. One injury from a one quarter rollover and two cases of injury in side impact may have been prevented by seat belts. The single case of ejection is of concern. However, the small number of serious injuries which are thought to have been preventable by seat belts seems to indicate that current buses perform very well in protecting occupants from injury.
The safety standards currently rely on providing passive safety in the form of a padded compartment to reduce injuries. The provision of a passive protection compartment appears to work well for most occupants but the integrity of the compartment must be maintained. In the case where a child was ejected through the rear emergency exit, the child would not have received the critical head injuries had she been retained within the compartment with the other three children.
The compromising of the occupant compartment in the one case of ejection through the rear emergency exit is being investigated to ensure that current requirements are adequate. In this case the large windows in the rear exit came free of the rubber molding and openings were provided which were sufficiently large that a child could easily have been ejected. The child was, in fact, ejected through the door, not the window, but there is still room for concern over a trend to larger windows in rear exits.
The latch requirements are being reviewed.
The fact that only one ejection was found in the study indicates that the side windows and frames continue to maintain the structural integrity of the compartment.
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