Man injured in 2008 central Alberta school bus crash calls for mandatory seat belts

A young man who suffered severe injuries in a 2008 school-bus crash in Rimbey, Alta. says the federal government should make seat belts mandatory in all school buses.

Keenen Clark called for the major safety change following a CBC News: The Fifth Estate investigation that revealed major flaws with a landmark 1984 Transport Canada study. The study concluded seat belts in school buses were not necessary and may cause injuries.

Clark was 14 when a gravel truck slammed into the back of his school bus, which had just stopped to pick up three passengers. The impact of the crash ejected Clark from the bus onto the pavement. He suffered head trauma, a crushed kidney and a ruptured spleen, and broke three vertebrae in his spine.

“I would have probably received no injuries, if I would have stayed on the bus,” Clark told The Fifth Estate’s Bob McKeown for the episode Unbuckled: School Bus Safety. “Everything that happened to me, happened after I fell out of the bus.”

Another student on the bus, 17-year-old Jenny Noble, died after also being thrown from the bus.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau declined The Fifth Estate’s repeated on-camera interview requests.

Following the fatal crash, the Alberta ministries of transportation and education published a report on school bus safety. The report included Transport Canada’s claim that seats belts were not needed.

“No Canadian province requires seat belts on school buses and Alberta is not considering a requirement for seat belts at this time,” the report stated. “While any injury or fatality involving a school bus is one too many, studies have found that due to the design of school buses, seat belts would not necessarily make buses safer and may, in some circumstances, put students at greater risk of injury.

“Transport Canada conducted consultations on this issue in both the 1970s and 1990s, and based on the evidence concluded that seat belts do not provide additional safety benefits in large school buses,” the report continued.

Landmark study seriously flawed

Instead, according to Transport Canada, students on school buses were adequately protected by “compartmentalization,” where strong, closely spaced and high-backed padded seats absorb the impact of a crash and prevent students from being thrown around.

But the investigation by The Fifth Estate found Transport Canada’s 1984 study, which still influences school bus safety policy across North America, was seriously flawed.

A close examination of the 1984 study shows Transport Canada never tested side-impact crashes or rollovers, where most serious injuries and death occur. Nor were any of the dummies fitted with three-point lap and shoulder belts, already proven to prevent ejection and injuries in cars.

An in-depth review of dozens of other studies prepared by academics, test crash facilities, and computer modelling spanning decades shows repeatedly that seat belts in school buses would have prevented serious injuries and death.

Don Voaklander with the University of Alberta’s Injury Prevention Centre says Transport Canada must fully disclose the research behind its recommendation to not equip school buses with seat belts. (Peter Evans, CBC News)A scathing review by University of Michigan researchers dismissed key findings in the Transport Canada study as “exaggerated” and its conclusions invalid.

In fact, documents obtained by The Fifth Estate show Transport Canada had initially wanted to put seat belts on school buses and had even set a date in the late 1970s for the rule to take effect.

But after some “aggressive” lobbying by school bus operators and school boards, the proposed seat belt law was withdrawn, mainly because of the so-called “cost-benefit ratio.” In other words, operators and school boards did not think there would be enough injuries and deaths to justify the additional cost of installing seat belts in every school bus.

Transport Canada conducted a test crash in 1984, the results of which influenced decision makers across North America. But The Fifth Estate revealed that, by the time of the 1984 test crash, Canadian officials were already aware of — and had written about — a previous study showing that seat belts would have saved lives had they been installed in school buses.

Injury prevention expert calls for review

Don Voaklander, director of the University of Alberta’s Injury Prevention Centre, said the findings of the CBC News: The Fifth Estate investigation were shocking.

“Most of us that work in the safety business in Canada have based our thoughts and our messaging on Transport Canada’s recommendations, that compartmentalization is the way to go with school buses,” Voaklander said.

“We had hoped that Transport Canada was providing us with objective data and if that is not the case, we are disappointed,” he said, adding that Transport Canada needs to fully disclose the research that informed its influential study.

“Perhaps we need to revisit some of those studies with more modern techniques to make sure that we are actually making recommendations that will keep children safe on school buses,” Voaklander said.

Clark said he still suffers the effects of his injuries from the crash that flung him onto the pavement on that foggy morning in 2008.

“A lot of trauma happened that day, maybe by things that could have been prevented. It definitely makes me think of what we are doing to keep everyone safe while they are on a bus,” he said.

“If something isn’t changed now, it’s just irresponsible.”

With files from The Fifth Estate

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Sherwood Park

Sherwood Park is a large hamlet in Alberta, Canada within Strathcona County that is recognized as an urban service area.[7] It is located adjacent to the City of Edmonton’s eastern boundary,[8] generally south of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Trail), west of Highway 21 and north of Highway 630 (Wye Road).[9] Other portions of Sherwood Park extend beyond Yellowhead Trail and Wye Road, while Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) separates Refinery Row to the west from the balance of the hamlet to the east.[9]

Sherwood Park was established in 1955 on farmland of the Smeltzer family, east of Edmonton. With a population of 70,618 in 2016,[6] Sherwood Park has enough people to be Alberta’s seventh largest city, but technically retains the status of a hamlet. The Government of Alberta recognizes the Sherwood Park Urban Service Area as equivalent to a city.


Sherwood Park, originally named Campbelltown, was founded by John Hook Campbell and John Mitchell in 1953 when the Municipal District of Strathcona No. 83 approved their proposed development of a bedroom community east of Edmonton. The first homes within the community were marketed to the public in 1955. Canada Post intervened on the name of Campbelltown due to the existence of several other communities in Canada within the same name, so the community’s name was changed to Sherwood Park in 1956.

The Sherwood Park Urban Service Area is located in the Edmonton Capital Region along the western edge of central Strathcona County adjacent to the City of Edmonton.[8] The majority of the community is bound by Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) to the north, Highway 21 to the east, Highway 630 (Wye Road) to the south, and Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) to the west. The Refinery Row portion of Sherwood Park is located across Anthony Henday Drive to the west, between Sherwood Park Freeway and Highway 16. Numerous developments fronting the south side of Wye Road, including Wye Gardens, Wye Crossing, Salisbury Village and the Estates of Sherwood Park, are also within the community. Lands north of Highway 16 and south of Township Road 534/Oldman Creek between Range Road 232 (Sherwood Drive) to the west and Highway 21 to the east are also within the Sherwood Park urban service area.

Originally posted 2018-10-15 05:11:06. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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