- Associated Press - Friday, October 28, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Des Moines school district is set to begin using seat belts on some school buses as part of a state study.

Starting Monday, a school bus with lap and shoulder belts will transport students on a handful of routes as part of the new Iowa Department of Education study. Another bus will be added to the study in December, the Des Moines Register (https://dmreg.co/2e4k5DG ) reported.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommended for the first time last year that seat belts be added to school buses, but cost remains a big factor as officials decide whether to install the devices.

The installation of seat belts costs about $7,500 to $9,500 per bus.

Another safety concern is whether students would get tangled in the seat belts during an emergency, however Des Moines will perform drills to make sure the buttons release quickly and the seat belts retract like they’re supposed to.

An average of six people per year died while riding a school bus between 2004 and 2013, according to NHTSA data. School transportation director of the education department Max Christensen said it is required for the seat belts to be both a lap and shoulder belt, since small children can slip out of lap belts without more protection.

In 2014, state Rep. Bruce Hunter introduced a bill that would have required state school buses to have seat belts. Hunter plans on filing the same bill again this session.

“It can save some lives,” Hunter said, stressing that expenses should be a secondary consideration.

While education leaders struggled a bit to latch the buckles during the district’s demonstration, bus driver Daniel Johnson is confidence that buckling up will get easier with time as new equipment gets worn in and students become accustomed to it.

Bus routes and stop times for the participating schools will not be affected.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com


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