Bus Safety

Q: Why are there no seatbelts on school buses?

A: School districts may require seatbelts if they wish, but many districts who have tried seatbelts have dropped the requirement due to the many practical problems with their use. Moreover, decades of study by the Federal government and others have shown repeatedly that seatbelts in school buses are not warranted. Instead, government regulations concerning higher seat backs, shorter front to back seat spacing, and fully padded surfaces provide passive restraint generally called "compartmentalization ," much like the protection of egg in a partitioned egg container. Studies document that this system provides greater protection to young passengers than do seatbelts in full-sized school buses. In the case of smaller vehicles such as vans and passenger cars the use of seatbelts is definitely encouraged and is generally required by law or regulation.

Q: How does one become a school bus driver in Massachusetts?

A: A Massachusetts school bus driver must complete a minimum of 16 hours of formal classroom and behind the wheel driver under the charge of a certified school bus driver training instructor. Subsequent to the training, the person must receive a Commercial Driver License (CDL) for the class of school bus to be driven as well as a school bus driver's certificate from the Department of Public Utilities. Written examinations, driving tests, and other skills tests are required. The driver must also have a U.S. DOT physical examination, drug and alcohol screening, a criminal record check, and a driving record review. (Chapter 90, Section 8A) To remain licensed, a school bus driver must undergo random drug and alcohol testing, a minimum of eight hours of in-service training annually, and an annual physical exam. Age requirements include a three-year driving record and semi-annual physicals after the age of 70. Drivers of vehicles described in Section 7D of Chapter 90 of the Mass. General Laws have similar, but somewhat reduced requirements as outlined Chapter 90, Section 8A1/2.

Q: What are the newest school bus laws in Massachusetts?

A: There are three new laws recently enacted in Massachusetts. One of them takes effect in 1998 and will prohibit standees on Massachusetts school buses. Until that time, Massachusetts law continues to allow school districts to permit up to 25 percent of the bus's seating capacity to ride standing in the aisle if straps or other hand-holds are provided. In effect as of September, 1996, are new laws which require school buses to have their headlights on at all times (Chapter 90, Section 7B) and permit private schools, camps, and child care facilities to transport up to 14 children in standard passenger vehicles with no school transportation standards or equipment which may be driven by teachers, aides, other school or camp personnel or volunteers having no special training or licensing (Chapter 90, Section 7D). This latter law conflicts with the intent of Federal highway laws

Q: How does a person qualify to become a certified school bus driver training instructor in Massachusetts?

A: A person must have a minimum of three years experience as a licensed school bus driver, be recommended by his or her employer, and successfuly complete an instructor training course approved by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles and conducted by the School Transportation Association of Massachusetts. Such school bus driver training instructors are licensed by the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Additional information may be obtained by contacting STAM.

Q: Is there a source for school bus driver training and pupil training in safe school bus ridership videos?

A: Funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Governor's Highway Safety Bureau, STAM maintains a video library containing nearly 100 training tapes for both drivers and riders. The library is available to all school districts and school transportation providers in Massachusetts with additional information being available by contacting the STAM office.

Q: Who is eligible to join the School Transportation Association of Massachusetts?

A: Any private firm which provides school transportation services under contract to school districts or other agencies as well as any school district whether it operates its own vehicles or contracts with a private firm for transportation services, any provider of goods and services to the school transportation industry, and any other individual or group with similar interests to the association and who may be admitted by the Board of Directors on a case by case basis.

Q: What are some of the benefits of membership in STAM?

A: In addition to summer and winter conferences and trade shows, the association also sponsors from time to time workshops and seminars on items of interest to the industry. Through telephone hotline, regular and special bulletins, and other channels, STAM provides individual research and informational services to members, including consultation with the association's legal counsel. Available to members and their employees are health insurance, group life insurance, disability income protection insurance, and other programs. STAM operates a drug and alcohol testing consortium, a workers' compensation self-insurance group. and a library of training videos. STAM is also the exclusive source of training leading to certification as a Massachusetts school bus driver training instructor.

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