School Bus Safety - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

School Bus Safety

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BELGRADE -

The school bus accident in Idaho is raising questions about how to make school buses safer for our children.

But experts say, there isn't much more that could be done.

The National Traffic Highway Safety Administration says 102 people died in school bus crashes between 2001 and 2010.

Compare that to the 402,703 people who died in other types of crashes in the same time period.

Belgrade Public Schools Transportation Director Robert Evans said the numbers show school buses are safe.

"They are the safest form of transportation we have as a result of decades of research and development," said Evans.

Even though seat belts aren't required in schools buses in most states, including Montana, First Student, which operates buses for many Montana school districts, said they are on buses in Helena because the Helena school district wanted them.

But Evans said there is no need for seatbelts because school bus seats are built using what is known as compartmentalization.

"Basically they run into the soft cushion in front of them and statistically that has resulted in far less injuries," said Evans.

And with winter weather here in Montana, safety is an even greater concern for school bus drivers.

Evans said he tells his drivers to use common sense.

"We tell all of our drivers to just plan extra time," said Evans. "That's coming in earlier, like this morning."

Thursday morning the temperature was -21 degrees at the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport.

Evans said the drivers come in early to make sure their buses are ready and the heaters are working, and to make their first stop on time no matter how bad the roads are.

"But after that first stop, their schedule goes right out the window and priority becomes road conditions, the traffic and other factors," said Evans.

Evans said Belgrade drivers are required to let the dispatcher know if they are running more than five minutes late so they can inform the parents.

He said every driver is highly trained and parents shouldn't fear letting their children ride the bus.

Evans said Belgrade schools haven't canceled bus service because of the cold temperatures in the ten years he's been with the school district.

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