Seat Belts in School Buses

On school buses, passengers are protected by a passive safety system

In Canada, school buses are not equipped with seat belts because they are built and designed with a passive safety system, which has been specifically designed and tested to provide optimal protection for children and smaller passengers. This passive protection system is known as “compartmentalization,” and currently provides the best protection for passengers on buses.

“Compartmentalization” refers to the safety “compartment” or “space” that passengers are seated in, which has the ability to absorb the forces of a crash while protecting the passenger at the same time. In a passenger car, the seat belt absorbs the forces of a crash. In a school bus, the “compartment” is designed to absorb the forces of the crash. The compartment does this by having specific design features such as:

  • Added seat height.
  • Seat padding in front and rear.
  • Seats anchored to floor.
  • Flexible seat frames.
  • Limited spacing between seat.

School buses in Alberta must meet the engineering and design standards established by Transport Canada. Transport Canada’s research indicates there would be few instances where seat belts would prevent serious injuries from occurring in a school bus collision.

Transport Canada does not recommend the use of lap belts on mid to large size school buses due to greater risk of head and upper body injury. Seat belts may be installed on smaller (mini) buses. In cases where the seat belts are in place, passengers are required to be buckled in.

To learn more about the use of seat belts in school buses, read Seat Belts on School Buses (pdf).