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Former bus operator Dave Callahan weighs in on school bus seatbelt legislation issue

Callahan - Star file photo

Dave Callahan said with Transport Canada taking a new look at the issue of seatbelts in school buses, he believes their use won’t happen in this province unless it’s federally regulated.

The former private bus operator said he has always thought seatbelts in buses were necessary but doesn’t believe it will happen because he said it boils down to being a money issue.

“With seatbelts you can’t put three people in a seat,” he said. “So each bus would carry a lot less students.”

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He said compartmentalization in school buses (which involves the design concept of using tall seat backs, padded with energy-absorbing construction covering all metal parts, and closer spacing) have been proven to work.

“Compartmentalization and seatbelts in school buses would be the ultimate, making buses safer in an impact accident,” Callahan said.

He said the problem is that would require a third more buses, especially since places like St. George’s have mixed-aged kids riding the buses from primary to high school.

Callahan said he has heard kids are being jammed aboard these buses now and he said the 1.6-kilometre rule was brought in because they don’t have room for courtesy riders.

“The school board is not interested in paying any more money for school bus contracts and until somebody’s hurt, nobody’s going to listen,” he said.

Callahan said he believes there are contracts going out for private bussing that are less than the school board pays for its drivers on board run buses.

He said if he can’t put a decent piece of machinery on the road to transport young people then he no longer wants to be part of it, which is why he gave it up.

Callahan said he can’t see the provincial government ever coming up with seatbelt legislation for school buses when in this province it seems that the lowest tender is always accepted.

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