Guilford County Schools transportation director pushing for new seat belt policy on buses

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. – Administrators with Guilford County Schools haven’t been pleased with what they’ve been seeing on school buses with seat belts – most students aren’t wearing them.

Out of the district’s 551 school buses, only 65 of them have seat belts.

“These buses have been in service about two years now, until this time, wearing seat belts has been on [a] voluntary basis,” said Jeff Harris, executive director of transportation at Guilford County Schools.

However, after Harris reviewed internal surveillance video, it was clear to him that the policy needed to move away from being voluntary.

In the first few months of the school year, he wants to get a policy written and passed by the school board that requires students to wear seat belts on the school buses that have them.

He’s hoping that approach will reinforce safety, cut down on discipline problems and potential distractions for the driver and eliminate peer pressure – which could be contributing to why students aren’t wearing their seat belts.

Most elementary school students were buckling up, but most middle and high school students were not wearing seat belts.

Harris also believes a mandatory policy is a step toward ensuring money isn’t wasted.

It costs an additional $10,000 to put seat belts on a school bus.

“It's not [being] very good stewards of our tax payer dollars if we equip the buses with seat belts and no one wears them,” he said.

Harris’ proposal is in the preliminary stages.

When asked what the consequences would be for students who don’t wear seat belts, he said Guilford County has not decided on a disciplinary strategy.

He did mention that other districts have policies that would either suspend a student from the bus or take away the student’s riding privileges.

Harris will send a letter to parents of students who ride buses with seat belts asking for their help with the issue once all Guilford County Schools students start the new school year.