Child Restraints on School Buses

School buses are the safest form of motor vehicle transportation, and recent data based on fatality rates show that they are eight times safer than riding in typical passenger vehicles (NHTSA 2002). The high level of safety is due in part to the special vehicle construction requirements, the high vehicle mass, the conspicuous yellow color, their use primarily during daylight hours on known routes, and the extra training bus drivers receive. School buses were originally designed to transport children ages 6 and older to school. They provide occupant protection using a concept called compartmentalization where the closely spaced seats with extra padding on the seatbacks create a padded compartment to protect the riders. Because federal funding for Head Start requires many children younger than 6 to be transported in school buses using child restraints, buses have some seating positions equipped with either seat belts or LATCH lower anchors. School bus seating manufacturers and NHTSA state that these seats with lap-and-shoulder belts are built to fit a 6-year-old child properly without a booster. Therefore boosters are not recommended at all in school buses. Other publications address details about using child restraints on school buses (SafeRideNews 2009).