When Westfield Washington Schools in Westfield, Indiana decided to try seat belts on their school buses, they started the process in a way that could work well for other districts. Knowing they couldn’t afford to retrofit all their buses with lap-shoulder belts at once and unable to purchase an entire new fleet, Westfield began with the buses parents and the district could agree on most: their travel buses.
“Today we use our school buses for more than traveling short distances to and from school. We use them to take our athletic teams, performing arts groups, and students on field trips where we are traveling on interstates for long amount periods of time,” said Nick Verhoff, Director of Business and Operations for Westfield-Washington Schools, when announcing Westfield’s move toward seat belts. The decision made the district the first in their county to take this proactive and forward-thinking step to better protect the children in their care.
As Nick said, travel buses don’t stick to neighborhood roads but travel on the interstates and highways. Field trips, sporting events, and school activities often require school buses to travel farther, at significantly higher speeds, and often in heavy traffic surrounded by large tractor trailers. For Westfield, it just made sense to start with lap-shoulder belts here. Lori Hutson, a local mother, agreed. “I like that idea. The kids are traveling further and further to sporting events as Westfield grows to compete with those larger schools. So I think that’s a huge, huge benefit to have that.”
“School buses are the only vehicles traveling down our highways at 65mph that don’t offer the protection of seat belts for our kids. We can do better, and in Westfield, we will,” said Tom Anthony, president and owner of Westfield-based IMMI, owner of SafeGuard, which is the leading provider of seat belts for school buses. “We’re thrilled to partner with the city and the school district. Their commitment to take the next step to better protect kids on school buses is just one more reason why Westfield is one of the best cities to live for families.”
According to NHTSA, seat belts save lives and reduce injuries up to 45% in every vehicle they’ve been introduced in. Technology has now made lap-shoulder belts, just like the ones in millions of cars, available on school buses. Lori appreciates that her school district is looking out for her kids by equipping their six travel buses with seat belts. “I was pretty excited about it even though my kids are older. They still take the buses to after school sporting events. With my oldest son, he’s on the wrestling team, so a lot of their events are far away and take place on the weekend. They travel I-65 and that gets a little nerve wracking knowing how many accidents take place on that road.”
IMMI also worked with Westfield Washington Schools by creating a music video to help teach kids how to properly buckle up on the school bus. Featuring local teachers, locations, and lots and lots of Westfield kids, “Groovy Bus” will help kids correctly buckle up for years to come.
“My son and my niece both did it,” Lori said, “and they had a blast doing it. After seeing the video put together they thought it was a pretty catchy tune. Every once in a while I’ll catch him kind of humming it,” she laughed. “But I thought it was really cute. I thought it was fun. I thought it was very instructional on how to do the seat belts.
The “Groovy Bus” song is available to other school districts that have SafeGuard lap-shoulder belts on their buses, so that they can put their own creative and unique production into it. You can check out the “Groovy Bus” video below.