Why Don’t School Buses Have Seat Belts? Here’s Why.

school-606084_640Kids are much smarter than we give them credit for.  Last week my five year old was tugging on his snowsuit in preparation for a field trip to explore the outdoor wilderness (the outdoor wilderness as it exists 15 minutes from the downtown core of Canada’s largest city).  The temperature had finally warmed up to a balmy -11 degrees Celsius; a significant improvement from the -41 degree Celsius the polar vortex brought to town, so the black balaclava was discarded in favor of an old-fashioned scarf.

During the suiting up process, my son chatted excitedly about the impending bus ride.  In fact, all of his classmates seemed more thrilled by the transportation than by the idea of hiking the park’s trails.  As he babbled on about his assigned partners (they sit three to a seat) and seat location (six from the back), I hummed acknowledgement, lost in my own nostalgia for the “back seat” and how we’d fly off our bums with every bump the bus hiccupped over.

“Mom?  Do you know why?  Mom?”

“Do I know what?”

“Why don’t kids have to be in car seats when they’re on the school bus?”

Why don’t kids have to be in car seats while riding in a school bus?  The point of this vehicle is to transport children.  Children who in any other vehicle according to the Ontario Highway Traffic Act must be restrained in a child’s safety seat.

Never mind the fact that neglecting to wear a seatbelt in a car is against the law.  Never mind the fact that parents spend countless hours discussing car seats and car safety with their children and hours more researching said seats.

Since I didn’t have a reasonable answer, I took to the Internet and discovered after reading various articles that the design of a school bus is meant to protect children in the event of a crash.  The padded seats, nestled close together with minimal legroom, are meant to absorb the impact of a crash.  The child’s body is trust into the padded seat in front and is prevented from accelerating.

In this article Transport Canada claims that lap belts could in fact cause head and neck injuries and installing shoulder-lap belts would require stiffer seats, therefore losing out on the qualities of the padded seats.

While I remain hesitant to explain various crash scenarios to my son, I do feel comforted in this newfound knowledge and can adjust my “freak-out-o-meter” accordingly.

5 Things To Look For When Buying A New Car Seat

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It’s hard to believe that 7 years ago I had in my possession a cart seat for my baby that was soon to arrive.  I distinctly remember opening the box and staring at the instructions, completely flummoxed and terrified.

I didn’t know it then, but less than two weeks would pass and my husband would be cautiously driving our SUV through the dense city traffic while I sat in the backseat mesmerized by my infant’s sleeping face.

Labour and delivery may have frightened the bejeezus out of me, but it was nothing compared to the nerve-wracking 20 minute commute from hospital to home.  It was in those minutes, my husband nervously sweating while maintaining a steady, cautious speed of 40 km, that we came to this conclusion: there are a lot of deplorable drivers in Toronto.

Why hadn’t we noticed this before?  All of these maniacs swerving in and out of lanes, stopping short and gunning yellow lights!  We were indignant!  Who gave these people their license?

Forget stressing over epidurals, driving home was far more intense!

Little did I know my relationship with car seats was at its beginning.  To echo Carol’s sentiments when I told her that I was writing this post: “Car seats are like a bad marriage, you have to stick it out to the end.”

And the end at least in Ontario, before your child is permitted to use the seat belt alone (according to Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act), is when the child turns 8 years old, or weighs 36 kg or is 145 cm tall or more.

Back when I was looking for car seats the pickings were slim and my criteria was specific:

Safe and slim, with staying power.

A few weeks ago Evenflo, a pioneer of baby gear, hosted an event for bloggers.

A disclaimer: Natalie, Carol and rarely go to events we’re invited to because one, we don’t want this blog to become a platform for flogging products and two, we each have three kids!  We’re busy!

But attend the Evenflo event I did, admittedly because it was around the corner from my house, and I have wanted to try out this fabulous kids’ space – call it third child guilt syndrome – where the event was hosted.

I am so glad that I made the effort.

Evenflo is making its mark in 2014 with its new line that is stylish and functional but above all safe.  Incorporating feedback from mothers, among other things Evenflo has made sleeker seats to accommodate multiple children in car seats in one vehicle because if your van is anything like mine, you’ll get these two words: village bus.

The Maestro Harnessed Booster, is a slim booster with simple adjustability, a removable head pillow and a 5-point harness that is proven to better distribute the force of a crash over a larger surface area.

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But my favourite is this seat, the Evenflo Symphony DLX-All-In-One Car Seat, Ocala that goes from 5lbs – 110 lbs!  A unique swivel system allows the installer to change the position of the seat from rear-facing to forward-facing as your child grows and the straps (this is the best part!) use Sure Latch technology so you do not have to thread them through the back of the seat every time your child sprouts a few inches.

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Looking to buy a new car seat?  Here are 5 things to consider:

  1. The weight, height and age of your child.
  2. Intended use: A travel system versus a traditional seat.
  3. Size of your vehicle.
  4. Knowing your child.
  5. Ease for parents.

I was loath to have to buy three different car seats for three different kids.  It took some research and a polling of Facebook friends but I did find the perfect seats.

Where was the 2014 Evenflo line 7 years ago?

Full disclosure:  Evenflo is going to send me one of their booster seats, but here’s the thing:  I didn’t even know that when I agreed to write this post, I just think that the seats are fab and I wanted to share with 4Mothers readers!  We never write about products that we don’t love – that’s a promise.