School buses are the safest way to transport children to school. Students are 50 times more likely to arrive at school safely if they travel by school bus than if they drive themselves or go with friends, according to statistics from the US Department of Transportation. School buses are a safer option even when compared to being driven to school by a parent. School bus restraints help to keep wheelchair users safely secured while traveling to and from school.
Points to Keep in Mind While Transporting Children Using Wheelchairs
School systems are responsible for making sure that children with special needs are safely transported on all forms of federally approved transportation provided by the school system. The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and Regulations (FMVSS) 222 (School Bus Passenger Seating and Crash Protection) have established safety requirements for the interior of school buses, including the specifications for school bus restraint systems used to secure child wheelchair users.
Every school bus manufactured since January 1994 has forward facing systems, meaning that the wheelchair faces forward when secured. This greatly increases the likelihood of survival in the event of a frontal crash. Tests show that side facing wheelchairs are unstable and often collapse. According to the FMVSS 222 regulations, a seven-point system must be used: four points to secure the wheelchair and three points to secure the child. The shoulder belt for securing the child must be attached to the school bus and the lap belt can be attached to either the four-point system or to the school bus.
The following checklist should be referenced when using school bus restraints for wheelchairs.
- The wheelchair is forward-facing and centered on the anchorage.
- Brakes are set and the power is switched off.
- The wheelchair is anchored at four points using the manufacturer’s instructions.
- The straps are attached properly
- The straps should be as close to a 45-degree angle as possible, and no more than 60 degrees.
- The straps should not be attached to the wheels or to any detachable part of the wheelchair.
- The straps should not bend around any object, or be close to any sharp objects or edges.
The wheelchair school bus restraints should be a well-tested product that meets the FMVSS 222 and other national standards and regulations.