Buckle Up? Iowa becomes the seventh state to start implementing seat belts on school buses.

DUBUQUE, IA (LCTV)— When was the last time you rode a school bus? Did it have seatbelts? Probably not.  Iowa is only the seventh state to require public school buses to have seatbelts.

The Iowa Department of Education approved the regulation, which took effect on Wednesday, October 2, 2019.  School buses purchased after that day will have to be equipped with seatbelts.

There are two different types of seatbelts. There are lap belts similar to the ones passengers use on commercial airlines. Then there are three-point belts such as those found in passenger vehicles. 

“The seat belt system that we have can accommodate either two large high school students or three elementary-aged students,” said Ernie Bolibaugh, Dubuque Community School District Transportation Manager. “It’s a really neat system that it is adjustable for both.”

The Dubuque Community School District has nine buses equipped with new seat belts. The district had looked into installing seat belts in all buses but decided against it because of the expense. The district hopes to have all of the new school buses equipped with seat belts within a ten-year span. 

Bolibaugh says the new upgrade comes with a hefty price tag.  

“This year it ran us about $5,500 more,” he said.  The school bus manufacturers are estimating that figure to increase to $6,000-$8,000 going forward.” 

Bolibaugh says this is a small price to pay.

“We just want the kids to be safe out there and this is another step to improve that.”

Parents agree that safety comes first. Every morning Jessica Freiburger sends her two children off to school on a Dubuque Community school bus. 

“I’m kind of a seat belt stickler, but I’m putting them on a bus with no kind of restraint at all and to me that doesn’t make sense,” she said. 

“I think our children’s safety should be our first priority, so with that being said safety and the seat belts go hand and hand,” Freiburger said.  

With winter soon approaching, buses on slippery roads pose safety concerns for children traveling to and from school. The school system has a solid safety record but had a close call not long ago. 

 “We did have a rollover incident a couple of years ago in the winter under bad weather conditions so that’s where the seat belts really stand out,” said Bolibaugh. 

No one was injured in the accident, but the risk was enough to promote the need for seat belts. 

According to the National Traffic Safety Administration between 2006 and 2015, there were 301 school-age children who died in school transportation-related crashes. Fifty-four of those children were on a school bus.

Parents and officials agree that the safety of the children is their main priority. 

“We just want the kids to be safe out there and this is another step to improve that,” he said

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Asia Singleton is a senior at Loras from Chicago, IL. She currently works as a reporter and producer for LCTV News. Asia is majoring in Media Studies.

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