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Monthly Archive:: June 2010

Guest Blog: Lessons from a School Bus, Part 1

Deborah Davis Stewart is publisher and Editor-in-chief of Safe Ride News Publications.  She is also a nationally recognized expert on child passenger safety issues, including the LATCH system on which she wrote the book!

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Lessons from a School Bus

Researching and writing the School Bus Safety Handbook: Choosing and Using Child Safety Restraint Systems (now there’s a mouthful for you!) for Safe Ride News was a learning experience—even for myself, despite my many years of advocacy of school bus safety. 

My co-authors, Linda White, Mary Anderson, and I learned several lessons about the differences between the use of child restraints in personal vehicles and in school buses.  I’d like to share some of them with you.

First lesson—the words we use

Even the term used for child restraints is different. “Child safety restraint systems” (CSRS) is preferred in the industry and among parents of children with special needs because it avoids any negative connotation of “restraint” as used for discipline.   And “school bus” can mean many things, too.

Second lesson—a school bus is more than big and yellow

When you think about it, it’s obvious a school bus is a very different beast from the family car.  But buses are different from one another, too. Some provide more flexible seating options than others, such as LATCH anchors or built-in CSRS.  Finding the right CSRS for the right kid that can be installed properly in the right bus is complicated!

Third lesson—more rules than a yard stick

Some conventional CRs (oops, CSRS) can be used on buses, but only if … they fit into the cramped space between two school bus seats… and there are lap belts on board … and the lap belts are designed to be easily tightened through a belt path – and on and on.  You get the idea, right?

Fourth lesson—passengers of ALL sizes

Babies are going to school these days with their teen moms in buses. Some bus drivers told us that they had to transport babies as young as two weeks! For rear-facing kids, only conventional CRs can be used since no school bus-specific CSRS are made for rear-facing use.  Kids with special needs also come in all sizes, and are being integrated more and more into the “regular” school bus routes.

Answers you can count on

We developed the SRN School Bus Safety Handbook to be a primer for anyone dealing with the use of CSRS on school buses, including child care providers. Our intention is to untangle all the aspects of fitting the right CSRS to the child and to the school bus on their route, as well as using the device correctly.  In every community, school buses are carrying kids in CSRS, yet often the drivers and aides have only minimal guidance.

CPSTs may want to, or be called on to, work cooperatively with school transportation folks. You could offer a wealth of information, but you must be aware that what you learned about buses in the 32-hour course is just the tip of the iceberg.  Even the Handbook, by itself, is not enough.  Just like priming the walls before you paint, it is just the first layer of information.  And remember, entering the realm of pupil transportation is a bit like going to another country: the environment as well as the language may be different and needs to be understood.

Lexus Family Safety Camp

How is this for awesome?  I got invited to go to the Lexus Family Safety Camp, held at the Kidspace Children’s Museum in Pasadena, CA, to learn about vehicle safety.  Some things I already know about, like ABS brakes (yep, used those on some of the few snowy days we’ve had here—pretty freaky when you’re not expecting it to kick in).  But other things, like vehicle stability control (VSC), brake override system, Bluetooth, and Lexus telematics I’ve read about but don’t understand because neither my Sienna nor my RX330 have them.

So, Lexus is flying me down to California so I can test drive vehicles with these features at the Rose Bowl parking lot (yay!).  I’ll get to talk with my friend Stephanie Tombrello of SafetyBeltSafe USA about child passenger safety and Janette Fennell of KidsAndCars.org, who is dedicated to reducing injury and death to children in and around vehicles.  For each person who attends the camp, Lexus is making a donation so that low-income, inner-city kids can enjoy the Kidspace Children’s Museum, which is located next to the Rose Bowl.

I’ll tweet my way through the event and take lots of pictures as I go.  Camp Lexus will also be videotaping, so you’ll all get to see how dorky I look as I drive ;).

CPS Express! Don’t get left behind!

If you’re a currently certified Child Passenger Safety Technician or Technician-Instructor then you should be receiving the CPS Express newsletter by email on the 1st of every month.  Lately I’ve been polling my local CPS Techs to find out how many are actually reading it.  Sadly, it seems not too many are.  That’s unfortunate but I guess you can only lead a horse to water…. (or in this case – deposit the water into their inbox).

Not only does CPS Express! have information on the recertification process, important announcements and notices, valuable tips for instructors, etc., but lately they’ve been covering some hot topics too!  Case in point, the article on “1 and 20 – Current thinking” in the May 2010 edition and this month’s Q&A segment with CR Manufacturers on the use of after-market products.  I was really intrigued by the variety of responses regarding the use of specific non-regulated products.  Thank you to everyone who contributes to CPS Express! and to all the manufacturers who took the time to respond.  I will be printing this segment out and adding it to all the technician clipboards at my check events!  

So, if you’re interested enough to be a CPST or CPST-I, but you’re not reading CPS Express every month – what gives?  If you’re just not receiving it then you need to check your profile in the Safe Kids website and see if your current email address is listed correctly.  If that’s not the problem then check to make sure it’s not ending up in your spam box or being blocked by your email system.  

And FYI – if you’re not currently certified as a CPST but still like to keep up with CPS-related news, you can read back issues of CPS Express! that have been archived HERE.  The May 2010 edition that contains the “1 and 20 – Current thinking” article has now been archived.  It’s a hot topic that is near and dear to many of our hearts and I thought the author, Lorrie Walker, did a great job presenting the facts while still maintaining a balanced perspective on the issue.