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School bus safety.

Unfortunately, careful planning to ensure that the daily ride to and from school is accomplished the bus pulls up at curbside on the first day of school. Since getting to school involves transportation twice a day and may involve quite lengthy journeys, parents, educators and transportation professionals need to work together to guarantee that rides to school are safe for all children. This is particularly important when a child has special seating needs and/or uses a wheelchair for mobility at school.

Special Seating Needs

For a child (or an infant or toddler being transported to a preschool program) with special seating or positioning needs, parents and professionals can determine whether conventional or special restraint systems are needed. Infant-only car seats, which must be secured rearward-facing, are designed to fit a child from birth to 20 pounds. Some medical conditions may require an infant to be transported lying down (car bed restraints are available for infants weighing under 20 pounds) or in a particular reclining position (infant-only seat with multiple-recline capabilities).

Conventional convertible car safety seats are designed for children from birth to 40 pounds and 40 inches tall. Booster seats can be used for children from 30 to 60 pounds or until the midpoint of a child's head exceeds the back of the vehicle seat.

Children under 50 pounds can ride in a child safety seat that meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 213. (Any child safety seat manufactured after January 1, 1981 meets current standards.) It is also important to check if a car seat has been recalled by a manufacturer by calling the Auto Safety Hotline through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) at 1-800-424-9393. Always be sure to attach the instructions for the seat (and keep a copy on file for reference) so that the seat is used properly and the child is positioned correctly.

A safety vest can be used when larger children need to ride lying flat. While it can be difficult to position a child on a bus seat in such a restraint, a vest can be used on a van seat or rear automobile seat. A vest can also be used for children who need added trunk support when seated or who, for safety reasons, need to be prohibited from wandering around the bus.

For children too large to be comfortable in a standard car seat, but who need the head or trunk support there are several options: larger car seats are available for children weighing up to 105 pounds often do not require expert fitting; or special travel chairs custom-fit by trained therapists or positioning experts.

Restraint options are also commercially available to accommodate children in casts and/or braces. Parents can consult with physicians and therapists to identify and obtain appropriate equipment. Sometimes this equipment is available via community loan or rental programs.

Evaluation & Selection for Safe Seating

Here are key factors for parents and professionals to consider when planning to meet special transportation needs:

1. Transportation needs should be discussed in advance e.g. as part of the process of developing a child's individual education plan. Parents and school transportation personnel should agree on the appropriate type of special safety device(s) to use and who will provide it.

2. The child's height, weight, behavior characteristics and medical conditions need to be assessed and taken into consideration to determine an appropriate restraint device. Since restraint systems have upper height and weight limitations, height and weight are key factors in determining which restraint system is appropriate. Other considerations may include: Is the child a wheelchair user? Does the child have seizures? Must extra medical equipment also be secured? Is the child able to follow safety rules and stay seated for the duration of the trip? Can the child sit independently? Is an aide necessary to provide the child with attention to medical needs during transportation? Transportation personnel need to be informed of these special considerations well before the first day of school to help ensure a safe ride for the child.

3. The restraint system should have been crash-tested, with satisfactory performance. Review the product literature to verify that the system has undergone dynamic testing. Car or bus seats that state they meet FMVSS 213 have passed crash-testing.

Makeshift restraints should not be acceptable for school bus transportation. Most stroller-type devices have not been dynamically tested and do not have the structural integrity to withstand impact forces. Some states will not allow the use of these devices on school buses. Contact your state Department of Education for information about special education school bus transportation guidelines.

4. Equipment instructions must be reviewed carefully and understood by parents and appropriate members of the school transportation team. A copy of the instructions should be attached to the device(s) and be on file for reference. The restraint must be installed in the vehicle as required by the manufacturer.

5. Be familiar with the vehicle used to transport your child. Seat belts should be installed properly. Is your child able to get into and out of the bus easily? Can your child be properly and securely restrained on the bus seat?


Informed parents not only make their child's ride to and from school safer, but can help influence school policies and procedures to make school transportation safer for all children. Sharing information with other parents and with school personnel increases recognition that transportation is important and helps identify appropriate resources and procedures for ensuring safe transportation.

Many states provide school bus drivers with continuing education requirements specifically related to the needs of children with disabilities. Videotapes and practice excursions offer drivers information on emergency evacuation procedures, pre- and post-trip inspections, and how to handle specific conditions such as seizures or autism. Parents should encourage school systems to initiate or continue education and training initiatives for transportation staff.

National minimum standards for special education school buses were adopted in May 1990 at the 11 th National Standards Conference on School Transportation. Although the standards are not mandatory, they provide guidelines for parents and local or state transportation professionals interested in revising and updating minimum standards for special education school buses.

At the present time, the NHSTA is working to establish federal performance standards for wheelchair securement devices and restraint systems. The federal government will be amending FMVSS 222 to address safe seating for students with disabilities riding school buses by the spring of 1992.

The notice of Proposed Rule Making for FMVSS 222 has not been issued but is imminent. Parents can contact state Directors of Pupil Transportation for copies of the notice. Parents can submit comments as individuals or as a group either to the state Pupil Transportation Director or directly to NHTSA.

All states have guidelines pertaining to school transportation of children with special needs. To obtain information about a state's current requirements, contact the State Department of Education, Director of Transportation. A copy of the Indiana guidelines, which reflect many of the 1990 National Minimum Standards recommendations, can be obtained from the Indiana Department of Education, Division of School Traffic Safety, State Office Building, Room 229, Indianapolis, Ind. 46204-2798.

Parents and professionals need to work together to achieve the goal of safe transportation for each child every day. There are no easy answers, no automatic solutions. Through careful planning, review and sharing of resources, and asking questions, parents will communicate that their children's safe transportation to school is a high priority.

Editors' note: Various car safety seats will be discussed in our upcoming October/November 1991 issue.


Valuable information regarding children unable to use conventional restraints is available from ABLEDATA, Adaptive Equipment Center, Newington Children's Hospital, 181 E. Cedar St., Newington, Conn. 06111. Telephone: (800) 344-5405 (Voice/TDD) or (203) 6675405 (in Conn.).

Parents are encouraged to contact the National Easter Seal Society about the KARS/Special KARS (Kids Are Riding Safe/Special Kids Are Riding Safe) program, a comprehensive hospital-based child passenger safety education program being developed with a grant from the NHTSA. This project is allowing the National Easter Seal Society to gather information and a curriculum to encourage hospitals to provide both conventional as well as special restraints for children.

For information, contact: Margaret Summerfelt, Regional Manager, National Easter Seal Society, 70 E. Lake St., Chicago, 111. 60601, or call (312) 726-6200.

Karen Bruner Stroup, Ph.D., is Research Associate and Coordinator of the Automotive Safety for Children Program and Injury Prevention and Control Program at the Kiwanis Trauma Life Center, Riley Hospital for Children, Indianapolis, Ind. Barbara L. Atkinson, Education Specialist, and Judith P. Doll, Associate Coordinator, are also on the Kiwanis Center team. Janet Stout, OTR, is assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy at Indiana University School of Medicine and Robert Russell is the Director of School Traffic Safety at the Indiana Department of Education.


PROFESSIONALS AND CHILDREN * Always cross in front of the bus in full sight of the driver.

* Wait for the bus on the curb, not in the street.

* Remain seated quietly during the entire bus ride.

* If safety belts are available, be sure to use them throughout the ride; only release them when the bus comes to a complete stop. * Sit up straight on the bus seat or in the proper safety seat with hips up against the back of the bus seat or car safety seat.

* A safety belt should be secured and snugly tightened low on the hips. (A safety belt placed across the abdomen could result in internal injury in the event of an accident.) * A safety belt should lie flat across a child's hips; it should not be twisted.

* A child who uses a wheelchair should transfer to the bus bench seat where a safety belt, car safety seat or other restraint system can be used. * All child safety seats require a seat belt for securement.

* When a child cannot be transferred to the bus bench seat, the wheelchair should be secured in a forward-facing position. Dynamically tested, four-point tie-down systems are the most reliable means of securing a wheelchair.

* The child and the wheelchair should be secured independent from one another.
COPYRIGHT 1991 EP Global Communications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:for handicapped children
Author:Stroup, Karen Bruner; Stout, Janet; Atkinson, Barbara L.; Doll, Judith P.; Russell, Robert
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Previous Article:Schools, insurance & your family's financial security.
Next Article:Your Child Has a Disability: A Complete Sourcebook of Daily and Medical Care.

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