Pilot program brings seat belts to seven BCPS buses

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The 2016-17 school year will bring clicking sounds to new yellow buses in the Burke County Public Schools fleet, according to Burke Co. Public Schools.  

N.C. Department of Public Instruction Transportation Services has accepted Burke County into a pilot program to equip buses with seat belts.

Transportation officials said Burke will have seven new yellow buses outfitted with lap/shoulder belts by the start of the new school year.

They said the goal of the voluntary pilot project, which includes 14 other school districts, is to help policy-makers evaluate future, widespread use of seat belts on North Carolina public school buses.

The seat belts will add up to $12,000 to the $83,000 price tag of a new bus; the state is picking up the tab for the equipment upgrade. To be part of the pilot program, Burke County Public Schools had to agree to several stipulations, including guarantee the belts will be used, train students two times a year on their use, designate school staff members to help ensure the students are buckled up in the afternoon before the bus leaves the school and train bus drivers.

In addition to student safety, one benefit for bus drivers is they may see a reduction in student discipline issues.

Students will be required to buckle up and stay buckled up until they exit the bus.

Officials said the seat belts will offer flexible seating and accommodate three small students or two large students.

The Burke County Public Schools Transportation Department is in the process of determining which routes the new seat-belt-equipped buses will run for the upcoming school year.