As of June 2009, Dallas County Schools, which operates the fifth largest school bus fleet in the U.S., will have more than 100 buses equipped with belted seats, about half of them 19-passenger buses and the other half 77-passenger buses.
A year earlier, the progressive Dallas County School Board made the decision to outfit all new school buses with belted seats before Texas seat belt legislation takes effect. Using local funding until state funding is available, the school system has made a commitment to continue equipping its fleet until every student on its 1,650 buses is transported in a belted seat.
The former president of the Dallas County Board of Trustees, Larry Duncan led the effort to equip buses with lap-shoulder belts, working collaboratively with school board leaders and members of top administration.
“Safety of our children is the most important consideration. We take it seriously and have made an absolute commitment,” Duncan said.
Duncan explained what drove him to initiate the charge toward belted seating. “Common sense and life experience tells me that our children need seat belts when they’re traveling in a moving vehicle,” he said.
Replacement seating is a part of the school system’s program as well, with 37 of existing buses in the fleet now outfitted with belted seats. “We couldn’t get it done fast enough if we only equipped new buses,” Duncan explained. “By retrofitting, we accelerate the pace of equipping the entire fleet.”
“Our board looked at it and decided that it was important enough for the safety of our children that we go ahead and start budgeting to fund retrofitting buses and … that anytime we purchased buses in the future that they would have the three-point belts,” Dallas County Schools Superintendent Rick Sorrells said.