March 1, 2019 by Greg Meckbach
Seatbelts with shoulder harnesses should be mandatory on all school buses, an opposition member of Ontario’s provincial parliament told Canadian Underwriter Friday.
“We should have the use of three-point seat belts on school buses to prevent injury and even death,” New Democratic Party MPP Bhutila Karpoche said in an interview. “This should have been done a long time ago.”
Canada-wide, there have been 19 deaths and 6,696 injuries since 1999 as a result of school bus accidents and collisions, Karpoche told the legislature Feb. 25.
The Toronto District school board does not have seat belts on its large-capacity buses but does have lap belts on its mini buses, a TDSB official told Canadian Underwriter Friday.
Karpoche was approached by a constituent in Karpoche’s riding of Parkdale-High Park, in the southwest corner of old Toronto. The constituent gathered signatures on a petition calling for mandatory use of three-point seatbelts on all school buses. Karpoche added her name to that petition and presented it Feb. 25 in the legislature.
Karpoche does not go so far as to say seatbelts should be mandatory in all types of buses.
“For children on school buses, I feel confident in saying we should have done this a long time ago,” she told Canadian Underwriter.
The Saskatchewan Coroners Service has called for mandatory seatbelts on highway buses, the Canadian Press reported earlier. That recommendation was in a report on a collision last year near Humboldt that killed 16 bus occupants. Most of the victims were teenage hockey players.
In theory, a single bus crash could cause a personal injury claim exceeding $1 billion. In this extreme hypothetical example, 40 medical specialists in their 20s could all be on the same bus, survive a collision and suffer permanent disabilities that prevent them from ever working again. If all 40 could have expected to earn $1 million a year for careers exceeding 30 years, the future income loss claim could then total more than $1 billion.
With school buses, three-point seatbelts have been showed to mitigate risk in the even of a side collision or rollover, Karpoche said.
“Anybody in any vehicle – what is the first thing we do? We put our seatbelts on,” she said. “When we are talking about children in school buses I think it is quite obvious that safety should be top priority.”
In Saskatchewan, the bus crash happened after a truck driver went through a stop sign. Truck driver Jaskirat Singh Sidhu pled guilty to 29 counts of dangerous driving and is scheduled to be sentenced March 22.
The coroners service recommended that Saskatchewan Government Insurance work with the trucking industry to implement standardized and possibly mandatory training for truck drivers.