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New Pre-K Seat Belt Regulation For School Buses Begins Jan. 1

Monroe County Community School Corporation has faced years of bus driver shortages. MCCSC spokesman Andrew Clampitt says the district is always looking to hire new bus drivers.

The Indiana Department of Education wants to make school bus rides safer for preschoolers in the new year.

All Indiana school districts who provide transportation for preschool students will be required to provide safety restraints beginning Jan. 1. The restraint has to meet all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

Mike LaRocco is the director of transportation for the IDOE. He says school buses aren’t safe for preschoolers because the kids are too small.

“They would submarine under the seat in front of them in a crash situation,” LaRocco says. “So depending on the age and size of the child the school district will have to evaluate what kind of restraint system that they will put the child in.”

LaRocco says the State School Bus Committee started talking about requiring restraints in 2012, but this is the first regulation of its kind in Indiana.

“And here’s the first scary part, up until this time beginning January 1 all preschoolers on school buses did not have to be in any kind of restraint system,” LaRocco says.

He says the cost of installing the restraints will be left to local school districts, because the state doesn’t require preschool transportation. But he says many Indiana school districts will have to comply with the new rule.

“With the passage of the extra funding for preschool education a lot districts are taking advantage of that and will be start transporting those students,” LaRocco says.

He says they should be prepared to spend between $50 and $200 per child.

“So they’re not real expensive unless your start getting into bigger numbers like the bigger districts: Indianapolis public schools, Fort Wayne schools, South Bend and Hamilton Southeastern. Those kind of situations,” LaRocco says.

The individual school district will decide what type of restraint to use. And, it’s not just a seatbelt. Districts could use integrated seats or car seats to meet the requirements.

LaRocco says there’s no enforcement method for checking if the restraints are installed. School districts who offer preschool transportation are preparing to spend more money this year.

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