School Bus Restraints for Small Children in Canada

1. BACKGROUND

Historically, school buses have been used to transport school-aged children to and from school or other activities. Transport Canada has conducted several studies and investigations that determined that school buses are the safest means of road transportation for school-aged children. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

One of the features that make school buses safe for school-aged children is compartmentalization. Compartmentalization is a means of providing passive protection by deformable and energy-absorbing seats, as well as optimized seat spacing and seat back height. In a collision, the body of the passenger moves forward, contacting and deforming the energy-absorbing seat back in front, distributing the force across the entire upper body area. This system has proven to be very effective in protecting school-aged children. Other features that make school buses safe are their strong body joints, window retention, roof intrusion protection, emergency exits and distinctive colour and lights, which make them conspicuous on our roads.

Parents, daycare centres and those responsible for transporting preschool-aged children are increasingly requesting information from Transport Canada on how to safely transport preschool-aged children in school buses. Some provinces have a networked daycare system where young children are transported from one building to another, to and from activities or playgroups. In some jurisdictions, children start school at 4½ years of age or younger. 

In an effort to assess the safety of preschool-aged children travelling in school buses, Transport Canada conducted tests to evaluate their safety if the bus is involved in a collision. The heads of preschool-aged children are proportionately larger than those of older children and make contact with the seat back in front in a different manner. In addition, their bodies may not weigh enough to take full advantage of the energy-absorbing seat backs. 

The study reviewed the compartmentalization protection offered by school bus seats and properly installed child restraints. The analysis targeted forward-facing child restraints. Other studies have extensively investigated the benefits of rear-facing restraints for infants .9 10 11 A review of these studies has determined that the benefits of rear-facing restraints for infants would also apply when these restraints are used in school buses.

This report compares dummy response for the 18-month, 3-year and 6-year old dummies12  using compartmentalization and properly installed forward-facing child restraints in forward simulated impacts. 

Canadian regulations13 currently require that all new small buses14 be equipped with two sets of lower universal anchorages, which allow for the base of a child seat to be installed in the bus. Every child restraint manufactured since September 200215 must be equipped with connectors compatible with lower universal anchorages and a tether in the case of forward-facing child restraints.

Transport Canada has developed an information package about the safe travel of children in passenger vehicles. This package, known as Car Time 1-2-3-4,16 divides the safe travel of children into simple stages. The dummies used and the conclusions reached in this study make reference to these stages.

Footnotes

1 School Bus Collision Tests, Transport Canada, Traffic Safety Standards and Research, Standards and Regulations, 1985, Technical Memorandum (TSRS).

2 G.N. Farr, School Bus Seat Development Study, Transport Canada, Road Safety Standards and Research, 1987, TP8445E.

3 P. Gutoskie, T.M. Burtch and G. Farr, Background Paper on School Bus Occupant Protection in Canada, Transport Canada, Traffic Safety Standards and Research Branch, 1989, TP 8013E.

4 M. McHattie, Review of Bus Safety Issues, Transport Canada, Road Safety and Motor Vehicle Regulation Directorate, 1998, TP13330E.

5 W.T. Gardner and S. Ste Marie, School Bus Collision Summary, Canada, 1989-1997, Multi-Disciplinary Road Safety Conference XI, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1999.

6  J.-F. Bruneau, Comparison of Two Advance Stop Signalling Systems Used on Canadian School Buses: Amber Lights and Red Lights, Transport Canada, Transportation Development Centre, 2002, TP13903E.

7 G.N. Farr, School Bus Safety Study, Volumes 1 & 2, Transport Canada, Traffic Safety Standards and Research, 1985, TP6222E.

8 School Bus Collisions 1992-2001, Transport Canada, Road Safety and Motor Vehicle Regulation Directorate, June 2004, TP2436E, RS2004-02E.

9 School Bus Collision Tests, Transport Canada, Traffic Safety Standards and Research, Standards and Regulations, 1985, Technical Memorandum (TSRS).

10 G.N. Farr, School Bus Seat Development Study, Transport Canada, Road Safety Standards and Research, 1987, TP8445E.

11 P. Gutoskie, T.M. Burtch and G. Farr, Background Paper on School Bus Occupant Protection in Canada, Transport Canada, Traffic Safety Standards and Research Branch, 1989, TP 8013E.

12 M. McHattie, Review of Bus Safety Issues, Transport Canada, Road Safety and Motor Vehicle Regulation Directorate, 1998, TP13330E.

13 W.T. Gardner and S. Ste Marie, School Bus Collision Summary, Canada, 1989-1997, Multi-Disciplinary Road Safety Conference XI, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1999.

14 J.-F. Bruneau, Comparison of Two Advance Stop Signalling Systems Used on Canadian School Buses: Amber Lights and Red Lights, Transport Canada, Transportation Development Centre, 2002, TP13903E.

15 G.N. Farr, School Bus Safety Study, Volumes 1 & 2, Transport Canada, Traffic Safety Standards and Research, 1985, TP6222E.

16 School Bus Collisions 1992-2001, Transport Canada, Road Safety and Motor Vehicle Regulation Directorate, June 2004, TP2436E, RS2004-02E.



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