BC Liberals introduce bill calling for seatbelts on school buses

Liberal MLA Laurie Throness (right) says British Columbia should become a national leader in requiring kids to buckle up. Richard Zussman/Global News

The BC Liberals have introduced a private member’s legislative amendment that would require all school buses built in 2021 onward to have mandatory seatbelts.

Liberal MLA Laurie Throness says British Columbia should become a national leader in requiring kids to buckle up.

“Hundreds of thousands of kids take the bus to school every day and though the likelihood of an accident is small, events like the Humboldt tragedy and the bus crash near Port Alberni remind us that accidents can and do happen,” Throness said.

“I hope the NDP will swiftly call the bill to debate or bring their own to the floor so that we can ensure the safety of our children remains a top priority.”

READ MORE: School bus involved in highway accident near Enderby

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Private member’s legislation rarely passes. The B.C. government says it is working with a federal task force on school bus safety and whether there should be mandatory seatbelts.

The task force will report back in January and the province will make a decision then.

“School buses are very, very safe. They have been designed for safety,” Trevena said.

“There has obviously been a lobby for seatbelts. That is why there is a task force and we have been involved.”

According to a Transportation Canada database, there were around 6,700 injuries and 19 deaths on school buses in Canada from 1999 to 2016.

Gary Lillico, a school bus driver who started an online petition calling for change, which has now gathered more than 122,000 signatures, says the injury numbers are actually higher.

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“There are unreported injuries,” he said. “[A] child who cut his head or got a little cut or something and goes home, gets cleaned up. It happens all the time.”
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As for how to enforce children to wear seatbelts on school buses, Throness says he expects the transition to be easy.

“Kids these days are very much used to the seatbelt habit. In every other vehicle in Canada it is required, I think they will wear them voluntarily,” Throness said.

The bill would implement Transport Canada regulations that provide standards for the installation of seatbelts in school buses for provinces, school boards, or companies that wish to do so.

READ MORE: Humboldt crash coroner’s report calls for mandatory bus seatbelts, improved victim ID system

If passed, the bill would require any new school bus purchased for operation in B.C. after September 2021 to be equipped with seatbelts. It would not require the retrofit of existing buses, which would be very expensive for school boards.

Lillico is also calling for technology known as a “seatbelt nanny” that allows drivers to know whether the seatbelts are actually buckled up.

“They will monitor if it’s clicked on or not,” he said. “The driver’s responsibility in California, for example, which has had it a long time, is to walk the bus and ensure they are all clicked in.”



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