Parenting Archive

Government Calls for Lap/Shoulder Seat Belts on School Buses


NHTSA Pushes Lawmakers and School Districts to Enhance Safety for Children on School Buses

School BusAccording to recent remarks made by NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind for the National Association for Pupil Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will shift its position to endorse 3-point lap/shoulder seatbelts on school buses.

As NHTSA’s administrator, my primary role is as the leader of our agency. NHTSA has not always spoken with a clear voice on the issue of seat belts on school buses. So let me clear up any ambiguity now: The position of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is that seat belts save lives. That is true whether in a passenger car or in a big yellow bus. And saving lives is what we are about. So NHTSA’s policy is that every child on every school bus should have a three-point seat belt. NHTSA will seek to use all the tools at our disposal to help achieve that goal, and today I want to launch a nationwide effort to get us there.

Is this a change in position? Yes. But it is consistent with NHTSA’s role as the guardian of safety on America’s roads. It is consistent with decades of progress in raising seat belts in the minds of the public from novelty to nuisance to “the car doesn’t move until I hear that click.” Seat belts are icons of safety. And that makes them the single most effective thing we can provide to improve the confidence of parents, policymakers and children. Without seat belts on buses, there is a gaping, obvious hole in our safety measures that sparks questions all of us have to answer. With seat belts, we can build momentum for student pedestrian safety, enhanced enforcement, and more.

Photo Credit: Safeguard4kids

Photo Credit: Safeguard4kids

While school buses are among the safest methods of transportation due to size, mass, visibility, driver experience and other factors, seatbelts would make them even safer. Seatbelts would also make large buses compatible with child safety seats for younger kids. Smaller school buses are already being transitioned to lap and shoulder belt systems. Concerns include cost and passenger capacity, which could reduce the number of children served by buses, possibly forcing some to other means of transportation. Currently, states determine if large school buses require seatbelts. Six states currently require either lap or lap/shoulder belts, but some of these mandates remain unfunded.

According to NHTSA, approximately 4 school age children (5-18 years old) who are occupants of large school buses are killed annually. Assuming 100% seat belt use, a Federal mandate for lap/shoulder belts could save 2 lives annually. Passenger car fatality rates are over 7 times higher overall.

It is still worth noting that most published comparisons between cars and buses use overall car fatality rates where fatal injuries are dominated by unrestrained occupants and crashes where the car driver is a teen or is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Overall rates also don’t take into account that many car fatalities happen with greater frequency during overnight hours, evening rush hours and during summer months when school buses may not be operating. So, the rates for a grade school child transported by a parent or adult caregiver in an appropriate restraint system in the back seat of a family vehicle would presumably be closer to the rates observed in school buses.

Even so, CarseatBlog applauds NHTSA’s new goal that could cut school bus fatalities nearly in half, and significantly reduce many more preventable injuries, making large school buses safer than any alternative. The consistency of message for a child to buckle-up anytime they are in a vehicle is also extremely important. The American Academy of Pediatrics also endorses such a policy.

The AAP recommends that all children travel in age-appropriate, properly secured child-restraint systems when transported in all motor vehicles, including school buses, to ensure the safest ride possible. The AAP further recommends that all newly manufactured school buses be equipped with lap/shoulder restraint systems that can also accommodate car safety seats, booster seats, and harness systems. The AAP recognizes the added benefit of improved student behavior and consistent habits of restraint use when traveling in motor vehicles. Policies on seat belt use have been found to improve student behavior and reduce driver distraction.

The Things They Don’t Teach You…


With Liam turning 5 in July, I’ve been paying attention to things I’ve never had to before, such as school. It never really occurred to me that things have changed at all since I’ve been in elementary/middle school, but apparently they have. Some people argue that it’s for the better, and others argue that it’s all going straight down in the metaphorical handbasket.

Personally, I don’t think I have enough experience with school age kids just yet to be able to voice my opinion on what works and what doesn’t, but I do know that one thing seems to be blatantly and obviously missing:

Life skills.

I’m not talking about skills such as interacting with others, sharing, whatever. I mean like, “adulting”. Apparently these things started disappearing when I was in school because I was fairly clueless on a lot upon graduating, but now they are all but extinct. I’m talking things like how to balance a check book, how to budget appropriately, how to perform basic maintenance work on your car, cooking/shopping/nutrition, building things, how certain tools work, gardening, etc etc. I’m sure there are programs at schools out there that exist but it’s definitely not the norm. I do agree that these are things that could definitely be taught at home by parents…but when is that going to happen? School lasts longer and longer these days, then kids come home with hours of homework. Combine that with parents who work full time and when is this teaching going to happen? No, it’s not the job of schools to teach your kids how to change the oil in their cars but really, aren’t basic life skills just as important as knowing how to solve an equation or edit a sentence? All the mathematical knowledge in the world isn’t going to save you when you burn your spam because you’re broke from not budgeting and getting ripped off from paying someone to do something you could have easily done yourself.


I don’t want this to be a touchy subject because heck, not all of us have time to instill this vast HOW TO BE AN ADULT knowledge upon our kids. I barely do and to be honest, I can’t do it anyway because no one taught me. But because I know what it’s like to feel an inch tall when buying a house or going to Home Depot, it’s important to me that my kids don’t. I want them to excel in academics, yes, but I also want them to be able to take care of themselves and not rely on others. I feel like as a society, we are becoming so technology dependent that we are forgetting how to manually do things for ourselves.

Surely I’m not the only one that’s thought of this, and I definitely don’t have a plan other than just involving my kids in every daily activity instead of sending them off to watch TV when I’m changing the oil in my car. How do we raise capable kids? Is there a secret?


New Jersey Updated Child Restraint Law Goes into Effect September 1, 2015


NJ county mapOn September 1, 2015, New Jersey put into effect its new child restraint laws. These laws apply to everyone driving through the state, not just to motorists who live in NJ. Even if your vehicle is registered in Toronto, you are expected to comply with the vehicle & traffic laws of each state you are driving in. And that includes their child restraint laws.

We know that legal jargon can be very confusing and many parents who live in New Jersey (or who drive through the state) still have questions so here is a breakdown of the the new NJ carseat and booster seat law in plain English:

Children under the age of 8 (through age 7) are legally required to ride in the back seat* as follows:

  • Under age 2 (0-23 months) and weighing less than 30 pounds are required to use a rear-facing carseat with a 5-point harness. This means a convertible used in the rear-facing position or an infant seat. (Note: Most babies will outgrow an infant carrier before their 2nd birthday and will need to transition to a convertible seat used in the rear-facing position. Unless you start off with a convertible seat from birth and then there is no need to transition to a bigger rear-facing seat.)

Rear-facing only (infant) carseat convertible seat installed reat-facing

  •  Age 2 through age 3 (24-47 months) secured in a carseat with 5-point harness either rear-facing (until reaching the weight or height limit) or forward-facing. Having a 3-year-old in just a booster seat is not legal unless they weigh more than 40 lbs.

Diono-Rainier-Clara  Nautilus2

  • Age 4 through age 7 (48 months until 8th birthday) and less than 57 inches tall (4’9″) secured in a forward-facing carseat with 5-point harness or a booster seat. There is no weight requirement in this updated law – only age and height requirements. (Note: If you have an older child who weighs more than 80 lbs. and you’re having a hard time finding a booster seat that they actually still fit in – consider a Safety 1st Incognito Kid Positioner. It’s specifically designed for bigger, older kids.)

Evenflo SK Platinum - harness Jon Turtle Booster Evenflo Amp

  • Age 8 through 17 shall wear a properly adjusted and fastened seat belt

Passing the 5 Step Test

*Exemptions: If there are no rear seats (e.g., standard cab pickup truck), the child shall be secured in a carseat or booster in the front passenger seat except that no child shall be secured in a rear-facing carseat in the front seat of any motor vehicle which is equipped with a passenger-side airbag that is not disabled or turned off.

Full text of the new law can be found here:

NJ Updated Law

The Universal Battle of Motherhood.


Okay, so I know it’s pretty much a joke to have the word battle in singular form up there in the title. As if there is only one battle to motherhood. Or parenthood. Hahahahahahahahahahaha.

I wish.


For real though, there are many battles, most of them individual and situation specific. Or not. The Battle of Taking Off Shoes in the Car. The Battle of Eat Your Friggen Dinner. The Battle of Stop Spitting on the Cat. The Battle of Keeping the Bathwater in the Bath. The Battle of Don’t Drink the Bathwater, Your Brother Probably Peed in it!

I’m not talking about those. Because we all know those are hopeless and we might as well not even call them battles because they will never be won. We should just call them  Losses You Need to Accept. The cat is just destined to be damp and stiff. Whatever, they’re covered in their own spit anyway so who cares.

I’m talking about the Battle of Alone Time. It’s a universal dilemma among moms. At least among the moms I associate with. All day long you are tired. You can’t wait till you can crawl back in your bed. You also can’t wait for silence. For time to chill on the couch. To internet surf without someone asking you questions, climbing on you, or getting into something. So bedtime comes, you breathe the sigh of relief as you close the last kid’s door…then what do you do?

Behind door number one you have sleep. You can go to bed early, and enjoy the extra sleep we all crave so you can feel refreshed in the morning. If you have a baby that wakes multiple times a night, at least you can feel less zombie like. But here’s the thing: the sooner you go to sleep, the sooner the morning comes. Scary isn’t it?


Behind door number two, you have alone time. You can grab snacks, your iPad, the remote, whatever, and camp out the couch to do whatever your heart desires. Without interruptions. Herein lies the problem of alone time: it’s addictive. I always laugh when someone says if you get a few hours alone a week it helps tremendously. For me it’s like mama crack. You give me a few hours alone and I will go to desperate lengths to find a way to get it again. So when I’m camped out on the couch at 7:30pm, that quickly transpires to me at midnight surrounded by 3495872347 chocolate bar wrappers, eyes dry and huge, ten tabs open to different websites reading about stuff I will realize I do not need by the time daylight rolls around. But at midnight? Oh I totally need that.

So which is it? What is a mama to do? Get restful sleep so you only want to sell your children for half the day the next day? Or get some alone time but feel like a cracked out zombie the next day? Personally I like to rotate the two options; keeps me balanced. Until someone comes up with a door number three….