State Board of Education adopts rules requiring seat belts on new school buses
DES MOINES – Seat belts will be required on all new school buses purchased by Iowa school districts and state-accredited nonpublic schools starting this fall, according to new rules adopted Thursday by the State Board of Education.
The board unanimously adopted state administrative rules requiring lap-shoulder seat belts and other safety equipment – they include one additional stop arm per bus, hand rails, exterior boarding lights, and fire-resistant crash barriers between the front bus seat and the bus driver – on new school buses. The rules are subject to legislative review before they take effect.
“New” buses are those manufactured on or after October 2, the date that the new state rules are scheduled to take effect. Schools will not need to retrofit older buses with seat belts.
“While school buses are built to keep students safe, lap-shoulder seat belts provide greater protection against injuries in the rare event of an accident,” said Brooke Axiotis, president of the State Board of Education. “Through this approach, we are doing more to protect Iowa students while allowing schools to phase in seat belts in a way that makes sense for them financially.”
Lap-shoulder seat belts add about $8,000 to the cost of a new school bus, which ranges from $90,000 to $100,000. Most Iowa school districts phase in the cost of new school buses using a Physical Plant and Equipment Levy or their general funds.
The Department proposed the new rules to State Board members based on a recommendation earlier this year from a group of Iowa school transportation officials. In 2018, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended lap-shoulder seat belts on all new school buses.
The new requirements are part of a broader effort to keep Iowa students safe on school vehicles. In separate action Thursday, the State Board adopted administrative rules that expand mandatory bus inspections to include all school vehicles that take students to and from school activities. And earlier this year, the State Board adopted rules under which school districts must document that mandatory school bus evacuation drills are completed twice a year as required by law.
The State Board adopted the seat belt rules after a period of public input and initial review from the Legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee. The rules will go back to the Administrative Rules Review Committee for final review.