SafeGuard Seat FAQs
The following is a list of common questions about the SafeGuard School Bus Seating products.
If you have additional questions, please contact customer service at firstname.lastname@example.org
The XChange Process
Q: How long does it take to XChange a SafeGuard Base Seat to a FlexSeat?
Upgrading the SafeGuard Base Seat to FlexSeat is a five-step process that takes less than 10 minutes.
- Remove the seat back cover
- Cut back foam along molded line
- Install outer cover to seat back
- Install inner module if applicable
- Attach restraint mounting hardware
Q: How does the use of XChange seating differ from retrofit seating?
The SafeGuard XChange base seat design offers a standardized platform that easily exchanges to belted seating options, in less than ten minutes without removing seats from the bus. With XChange, schools can add lap-shoulder belts or integrated child seats to any route at any time.
In comparison, retrofit requires the complete replacement of seating, as well as sometimes also requiring structural changes such as holes in the floor. The seat frame and cushion are reused to eliminate waste, and installation labor is greatly reduced.
Q: How are children currently protected in non-belted seats during school bus accidents?
In non-belted school bus seats, the current form of safety protection for children on school buses is known as compartmentalization. This passive form of restraint relies on closely spaced, high-back padded seats. In a frontal collision, children impact the seat in front of them, which absorbs their energy. Compartmentalization was standardized on school buses in 1977.
SafeGuard school bus seats are all high back seats. NHTSA, as well as internal testing at SafeGuard, confirms high seatbacks offer the best approach for keeping unbelted students inside the seating compartment.
Q: How does compartmentalization protect children?
In the event of a frontal crash, the padded seatbacks yield to absorb the energy of the unbelted child who impacts the seatback. If the child is partially in the aisle or taller than the seatback, compartmentalization offers less effective protection in a frontal collision. In the event of a rollover or side-impact collision, compartmentalization offers virtually no protection for children. In these types of accidents, children are likely to be thrown out of their seats, and injuries are likely to occur. Seat belts provide the best protection in any moving vehicle.
The 1999 National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Special Investigation Report concludes: “Current compartmentalization is incomplete in that it does not protect school bus passengers during lateral impacts with vehicles of large mass and in rollovers, because in such accidents, passengers do not always remain completely within the seating compartment.”
Q: What has changed since compartmentalization was implemented that we need lap-shoulder belts on school buses?
According to the American Trucking Association, since 1980 travel on US highways has nearly doubled. The nation’s population has risen 27 percent; heavy truck registrations have increased by 61 percent; heavy truck vehicle-miles traveled have risen by 102 percent, and passenger vehicle-miles traveled have gone up by 87 percent. Yet the highway system has only been expanded by about three percent over the same period. In this new era of heavy traffic on US highways, school buses share roads with more heavy trucks and passenger vehicle traffic.
School buses are also used more often for school trips and sporting events, requiring travel on interstates and highways. This increases the likelihood that there will be a high-speed accident. All of these factors together result in a potential for more deadly collisions on school buses and potentially increased liability for the school district.
Q: What is SmartFrame™?
IMMI believes that compartmentalization is important, as evidenced by the unique protection of SmartFrame technology for unbelted passengers. With exclusive SmartFrame technology, SafeGuard bus seats provide the protection of lap-shoulder belts for belted passengers, while offering full compartmentalization protection for unbelted passengers in a frontal collision.
Here’s how it works: SafeGuard bus seats are made with two structures. The inner structure provides lap-shoulder belts and absorbs crash energy for the belted passenger. The outer seatback structure remains upright to provide compartmentalization for anyone in the seat behind who isn’t wearing a seat belt.
SmartFrame also offers a maintenance advantage because it offers simple access and easy service of restraint systems and upholstery.
Q: How are other belted school bus seats made?
With SmartFrame (dual frame) technology, SafeGuard bus seats are proven to deliver full compartmentalization protection to unbelted passengers in frontal crashes. Other belted seats available on the market are designed with belts attached to a single frame, which creates one of two passenger protection challenges:
If the seatback is too weak, it will fold with the belted passenger in a frontal crash, minimizing compartmentalization protection for any unbelted passengers in the seat behind. If the seatback is too strong, it can create injuries for unbelted passengers seated behind.
Crash testing shows seats with SmartFrame (dual frame) technology yield lower injury values for belted and unbelted passengers, compared to seats with single frame designs.
Q: Will an unbelted child have any protection in the SafeGuard school bus seats?
SafeGuard school bus seats, standard with SmartFrame technology, offer full compartmentalization to unbelted occupants in a frontal collision. Of course, belted students will be better protected in any type of accident.
Lap-Shoulder Belts on School Buses
Q: Will the addition of lap-shoulder belts affect school bus capacity?
Before SafeGuard/IMMI introduced FlexSeat in 2007, seat designs that included lap-shoulder belts took away flexibility and reduced overall bus capacity by forcing the choice of seats with either two or three positions. Because of this constraint, school transportation directors were forced to purchase additional buses, reduce routes or change routes to optimize the use of their buses. The introduction of the SafeGuard FlexSeat alleviated these concerns by offering the flexibility of transporting either two or three children on every seat, while ensuring that they all have lap-shoulder belts.
Q: What states require seat belts on school buses?
California (2005) and Texas (2010) require lap-shoulder belts on new buses. New York, New Jersey and Florida require at least lap belts on new buses. Each year, 20 to 30 states have bills calling for seat belts to be mandatory on new school buses. Most proposed bills are driven by local grassroots activity.
Q: Will children wear lap-shoulder belts on school buses?
Children come out of the hospital buckled into a car seat. They’re conditioned from birth to be belted while in a moving vehicle. Pilot studies and field studies have shown that with proper administered policies in place, compliance rates are very high. As with any other bus behavior policies, seat belt usage policies must be actively communicated for the safety of the children.
Q: Will lap-shoulder belts improve children’s behavior and reduce bullying on school buses?
While the safety advantages of lap-shoulder belts usually push school districts to move ahead with lap-shoulder belts, transportation managers and drivers say the behavior benefits are the most significant daily impact they see. Children are less inclined to move around in their seats, stand while the bus is moving or talk to those several rows away from them. There is no greater deterrent to bullying and unruly behavior than keeping children in their seats. Additionally, when children stay in their seats, drivers are less distracted, further improving safety on the school bus.
Q: Can lap-shoulder belts be used as weapons?
In the past, some lap belts were designed with a massive steel buckle threaded on a long web, making them possible to swing. Modern lap-shoulder belts use retractable systems for the lightweight tongue. As with most passenger cars, the buckle is attached to the seat with a short piece of webbing, making them impossible to swing.
Q: How will students get out of lap-shoulder belts if there is an accident?
Evacuation training is essential for all students riding a school bus, whether the bus is equipped or not equipped with restraints. Training prepares children to respond calmly in the event of an accident.
Students are less likely to be injured in a bus accident when they are wearing restraints. A properly restrained child who has not been injured can release himself and evacuate more quickly than one who requires a stretcher for evacuation. Buckles are designed and tested to unlatch with the push of a button, even in a bus rollover. Fully loaded, federal motor vehicle safety standards require that the force required to push the button on a buckle must be less than 14 lbs.
In an emergency, the most significant limitation to evacuation of a bus is the design of emergency exits. A large number of evacuees must move through a single exit door, one at a time, to one person on the outside. In an accident, this process creates a greater timing challenge than the few additional seconds required to release restraints.
Q: How will students evacuate from a bus with lap-shoulder belts if the accident involves fire or deep water?
As noted in the response above, a properly restrained child who has not been injured is much better able to evacuate in any type of accident.
Evacuation training is essential for all students riding a school bus, whether the bus is equipped or not equipped with restraints. Training prepares children to respond calmly in the event of an accident, and the key element in a quick evacuation is uninjured, conscious passengers. In an accident without belts, the risks of injury and unconsciousness increase greatly.
Q: Is the operation of FlexSeat intuitive to children and young adults?
IMMI engineers conducted a usage study in 2010 with the FlexSeat, evaluating how children ages 6 to 16 interacted with the product. Approximately 60 children were involved in the study. Even without instruction, none of the children used the product improperly. With very minimal training, children were all able to use the sliding dual buckle and the shoulder height adjuster for greater comfort.
Of course, as with any other school bus procedures, children should be educated in the proper use of SafeGuard school bus seating.
NHTSA Final Ruling on FMVSS 222
Q: What were the primary changes to school bus seating, as regulated by the 2008 NHTSA final rule?
On October 21, 2008, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its final ruling on school bus seating protection, as regulated by FMVSS 222. NHTSA’s final rule focuses on improving the crashworthiness of school buses and making school travel safer for children by mandating lap-shoulder belts for buses under 10,000 lbs GVWR, requiring higher back seats for all school buses and establishing performance requirements for belted seating. With this update to FMVSS 222, which is effective October 21, 2011, the industry now has design parameters and testing standards for belted seating, along with an ongoing requirement for true compartmentalization, provided exclusively by SafeGuard through SmartFrame.
Q: How does NHTSA deal with flexible seating in the final rule?
In the new ruling, NHTSA recognizes flexible seating (pioneered in 2007 by SafeGuard) as a new product category, allowing that one lap-shoulder belt may be installed for every 330 mm (13 inches) of seat bench width. NHTSA requires that school bus seats equipped with three lap-shoulder belts also be able to be configured to transport two students.
Q: How was SafeGuard involved in the creation of the NHTSA final rule?
SafeGuard shared a significant amount of testing data with NHTSA in a collaborative effort to help establish parameters for design and testing of belted seating for school buses.
Q: Are SafeGuard school bus seats crash tested?
In addition to the static tests required by FMVSS 222 and 210, SafeGuard school bus seats are dynamically sled tested at the Center for Advanced Product Evaluation (CAPE). SafeGuard FlexSeat equips buses to meet FMVSS 209 restraint performance requirements, FMVSS 210 anchorage requirements, FMVSS 213 child passenger safety seat requirements, FMVSS 222 requirements for bus seat design and performance, and FMVSS 225 LATCH requirements.
Q: Do SafeGuard school bus seats meet federal standards?
SafeGuard school bus seats exceed all applicable government safety standards for school bus seats.
Product Usage and Operational Issues
Q: What are the weight and size recommendations for SafeGuard school bus seats?
Shoulder belt height adjusters on SafeGuard school bus seats enable the lap-shoulder belt to properly fit occupants of a wide range of sizes, from a four year-old, 40-pound child over 40 inches tall, through a large adult.
Q: Can I fit the same number of seats in my buses with SafeGuard XChange seating?
Yes. The seatback thickness of SafeGuard school bus seats is virtually the same as standard school bus seats, so the number of rows available for seating is typically not reduced.
Q: Will lap-shoulder belts decrease the capacity of school buses, making it necessary for districts to purchase additional buses?
The SafeGuard FlexSeat, which transports three elementary school children or two high school kids on a standard 39-inch seat, essentially eliminates the capacity concerns related to the previous generation of seats equipped with lap-shoulder belts. The seatback thickness of the FlexSeat is virtually the same as current FMVSS 222 school bus seats, so the number of rows available for seating is typically not reduced.
Q: I can get three high school sized kids in my current FMVSS 222 seat. Won’t I lose capacity with lap-shoulder belts?
If you are transporting three high school-sized kids in your current seats, the occupant in the aisle seat is likely to be seated outside of the seating compartment. According to NHTSA, “Persons not sitting or sitting partially outside of the school bus seats will not be afforded the occupant protection provided by the school bus seats.”
Q: If SafeGuard school bus seats are in an accident, do they need to be replaced?
If the SmartFrame opens during a frontal collision, it will need to be replaced. As with any equipment damaged in an accident, the school district would confer with the insurance carrier to cover equipment replacement.
Q: I’m concerned that children will destroy seat belts, increasing maintenance costs.
Results with tens of thousands of lap-shoulder belted seats in the field for more than five years have shown the opposite to be true. SafeGuard has experienced very minimal returns and replacements: just 0.1 percent returns for replacement on commercial grade seat belt equipment and only 0.2 percent replacement of upholstery. Response from users indicates that student behavior is significantly improved and that the calmer environment is not conducive to students acting destructively.
Q: Can we service the SafeGuard school bus seats in the field?
SafeGuard school bus seats are designed to be serviceable in the field. Seat belts or outer covers on SafeGuard bus seats can be accessed quickly by removing the inner SmartFrame�. They can be easily replaced in less than 15 minutes. For more information, contact customer service at 877-447-2305.
1 Bus Crashworthiness Issues; NTSB/SIR-99/04, Conclusions, p. 68-69