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Seatbelt safety improvements go into effect in Iowa

SERGEANT BLUFF, Iowa (KTIV) – Some big changes are now in place for students who ride the school bus. Any new buses purchased by Iowa school districts must now include seatbelts and other safety improvements.

In August, the State Board of Education adopted rules requiring lap-shoulder seatbelts and other safety equipment on new buses.

It comes after a demonstration earlier this year from a group of Iowa school transportation officials. In 2018, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended lap-shoulder seatbelts on all new school buses.

The new requirements are part of a broader effort to keep Iowa students safe on school vehicles.

“One death is too many as far as I’m concerned,” said Sergeant Bluff-Luton School District Transportation Director, Chris Plendl.

But, the seatbelt rule change won’t impact some school districts in Iowa as much as others.

“A couple years ago we ordered a new bus and it was our activity bus and we put seatbelts on it,” said Plendl. “Then we decided at that time, when talking to the school board, that any new school buses that we would order in the future, we would put seatbelts on.”

Then, this fall, the Sergeant Bluff-Luton School District ordered a new route bus and equipped it with seatbelts as well.

“So we’re kind of ahead of the ball game with the two school buses that way, but it’s for the safety of the children,” Plendl said.

Any bus manufactured after Wednesday is required to have those seatbelts. Sergeant Bluff-Luton school district officials say within seven years all of their buses will be equipped with those new safety improvements.

The school district won’t have to comply with the new law for older buses because they will be grandfathered in.

“It’s hard for small school districts, with the cost of the seatbelts in there, to retrofit every school bus that they have in their fleet,” Plendl said.

Plendl said it will cost about 7 to 10 thousand dollars to include seatbelts on each new bus.

“But, it’s less than a few cents a day for the safety of the children,” Plendl said. “So how do you put a price on that? It’s worth the cost.”

Other safety improvements for school buses that took place Wednesday include one additional stop arm per bus, handrails, exterior boarding lights, and fire-resistant crash barriers between the front bus seat and the bus driver.

Michaela Feldmann

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