DES MOINES — The State Board of Education has given final approval to a change that requires all new school buses to have seatbelts in them — but that wasn’t the only change made to the rules.

Department of Education Transportation Director Max Christensen says another change is the doubling the number of the retractable stop signs on buses. “We currently have one stop sign that is basically positioned where the driver is located. The second stop sign will be located on the left rear corner of the school bus,” according to Christensen.

He says the additional stop signs will be required on new buses.  It’s a step they hope will cut down on the number of people who drive through when the stop signs are out on a stopped bus. “We estimate there’s about 700 per day here in Iowa,” he says, “and we feel that having that second stop arm on that back corner of the school bus, the vehicles coming up from behind will be more  able to see that that bus is stopped and see that stop sign,” Christensen says.

The stop signs are required to have flashing lights on them. Another rule change requires that the two yearly inspections include all vehicles used for student transportation. Christensen says they are now limited to inspecting only vehicles used as school buses — not those driven to and from activities and sports. The inspection fee was raised from 40 to 50 dollars on July 1st.

The National Transportation Safety Board recently released its findings on the fatal 2017 Riverside School District bus fire near Oakland which killed the driver and the student.  Christensen says the recommendations in that report won’t directly impact the state.  “All of those recommendations went to the manufacturers — so that will be more on them than the state agency,” Christensen says.

He says they will see the changes as they are implemented in new buses.  He says the manufacturers have been asked to strengthen their firewalls so that the firewall is stronger between the engine and the passenger compartment. Christensen says more students than you might think ride school buses every year in Iowa.  “Believe it or not — about 240-thousand a day — twice a day,” Christensen says.

The rule changes for buses are expected to go into effect in October, after being checked by the Legislative Rules Committee.