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Transport Canada to take new look at rules, research on school bus seatbelts

Last Updated Oct 15, 2018 at 8:20 pm EDT

Transportation Minister Marc Garneau responds during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on October 4, 2018. Transport Minister Marc Garneau is ordering his department to take a fresh look at the data on school bus safety and seatbelts to see if new regulations are needed. Garneau says seatbelts on buses, when properly used and installed, can provide an additional layer of safety for riders, but notes that current seat designs already provide good safety in the event of an accident. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA – Transport Minister Marc Garneau is ordering his department to take a fresh look at the data on school bus safety and seatbelts.

Garneau says if seatbelts are properly used and installed on buses they can provide an additional layer of safety for riders, but notes that current seat designs already provide good safety in the event of an accident.

The government was put on the defensive Monday after an investigation from the CBC show “The Fifth Estate” suggested federal regulations about school bus safety restraints were based on out-of-date and incomplete information.

Canada doesn’t currently require seatbelts on school buses, but did introduce new guidelines in late June to regulate their use by bus operators who choose to install them.

Those new technical requirements say restraints must not compromise existing safety features of the compartmentalized seats specifically designed to protect school children in the event of a crash.

A 2010 Transport Canada study says seatbelts could help prevent injuries in rollovers, crashes where a pickup truck or larger vehicle slammed into the side of a bus, or crashes causing “significant vertical lift of the occupant compartment.”

The study recommended more research on the use of seatbelts on buses to ensure their use didn’t increase the risk of injury for children.

Since 1984, there have been 23 deaths of school children involved in bus crashes, including one between 2008 and 2016, the most recent year available.

Transport Canada says side-impact collisions that cause injuries are rare.

However, Garneau said he was willing to take another look at the data on bus safety.

“I have instructed my department to take an in-depth look at the question of seatbelts in buses, a fresh look based on all of the evidence that has been collected since all the way back to 1984, and I look forward to their findings,” Garneau said in the House of Commons.