Mar 8, 2012 3:06 PM by Melissa Anderson (KXLH Helena)
HELENA- Helena will be the first school district in Montana to require seat belts on its buses.
Helena School Board members approved a seven-year contract with First Student Bus Service to include three-point seat belts on all of its buses.
Helena School District transportation manager Tom Cohn noted, "They are an added safety for our students and we just think it was worth the cost."
School buses currently rely on padded seats to protect children who ride them, but they only protect students from front and rear collisions.
"What happens is in a side collision or a rollover, compartmentalization isn't near as effective. And with the recent accidents around the country and even in Montana we decided that seat belts were going to be beneficial for our students," Cohn explained.
Cohn says because older buses are harder to retrofit, and more costly, First Student has agreed to bring in a whole new fleet of buses.
Currently the Helena School District supports 70 buses used for both school transportation and activities.
"These buses will be fitted right at the factory with three-point seat belts like you would find in your car," Cohn said.
The seat backs will be higher to support the shoulder type belts. Because students vary in size, the seat backs will be removable and child seats may fold out to fit; Cohn said, "So if you have a dozen kids that are under 65 pounds you would put a dozen seats to fit those kids."
The move to require seat belts on school buses is expected to catch on with other districts statewide.
"I would say we probably dropped the first dominoes and other schools are going to follow suit," Cohn remarked.