Valley View a nationwide leader in school bus safety

When the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration handed down a final ruling Oct. 15 setting new, more stringent safety standards for school buses, it meant many school districts will have to get to work quickly on meeting the new requirements.

Those new regulations require lap and shoulder belts, rather than simple seat belts, in all new buses that weigh 10,000 pounds or less. The NHTSA also recommended that school districts “voluntarily” install seat belts in buses that weigh more than 10,000 pounds. Plus the federal agency required the seat back heights to be 24 inches rather than the standard 20 inches.

But the good news locally is Valley View School District 365U buses already meet, and in some cases exceed, the new regulations. The fact is the district was the first International Corporation bus user in the country to install lap and shoulder belts on both special education and general education buses.

“Maintaining a high level of safety for our students is important to our school board and our administration,” said Derrick Berlin, transportation director for special services for the Valley View district, who spearheaded the designing of the new lap and shoulder belts. “We had one single purpose: making our children safer.”

That means all 113 new Valley View buses put into service in August were equipped with the lap and shoulder belts. An additional 59 new buses will be delivered with the new belts well before the end of the three–year period required by the NHTSA.

“Every single bus will meet the code even though we’re not required to do so on our larger buses,” Berlin said, pointing out that Valley View currently has 88 large–sized buses.

In addition, the seat backs in all Valley View buses currently are 29.5 inches high, far exceeding the new mandate of 24 inches.

“We foresaw the need to do this,” said Berlin, who became a disciple of lap and shoulder belts after attending the National Association for Pupil Transportation Conference a year ago. “With the assistance of Midwest Transit Inc., we went to the International Corporation and got the ball rolling to have them installed.”

Now many other school districts who purchase buses can thank Valley View officials for being so proactive in the area of school bus safety.