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Safety Officials Warn About Toys Snagging on School Buses
5/31/2010 1:17:05 PM

Safety Officials Warn About Toys Snagging on School Buses 
 
 
Washington, DC - State school bus safety officials and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today warned parents that popular "Pokemon," "Furby," "Beanie Babies" and other small toys that can be attached to backpacks or clothing pose a potential safety hazard to children getting off school buses.

Michael Martin of the School Bus Information Council said, "Fortunately there have been no deaths or injuries cause by these toys snagging, so we have an opportunity to forewarn parents and school officials. But since 1991 six children have been killed when clothing, book bags, backpacks or other loose items snagged on a school bus handrail or door component-they were dragged to their deaths or run over when the bus pulled away. At least 22 others have been injured in similar incidents."

"These toys are all the rage with youngsters today and it's only natural that they would want to show them off," Martin said. "There is nothing wrong with the toys themselves, but any toy that dangles off backpacks or clothing is every bit as dangerous as loose drawstrings, straps, and other items that have caused deaths and injuries in a number of situations. It's the old adage about an ounce of prevention-parents need to know about the danger and should remove these toys from their child's clothing and backpacks immediately."

NHTSA Acting Administrator Rosalyn G. Millman said, "The United States has an outstanding pupil transportation safety record because state and federal officials and the school bus industry constantly work together to minimize risks. We always err on the side of caution, giving parents and caregivers information they need to make their child's trip to and from school as safe as humanly possible."

"Over the past decade, the designs of childrens' clothing and other items they carry have changed, causing unnecessary fatalities and injuries when they became entangled. School bus manufacturers initiated recalls to reconfigure handrails and other equipment to prevent problems. But, the most effective way to prevent problems is for parents and caregivers to ensure that children do not wear or carry anything likely to become entangled," she said.

NHTSA first expressed concern in 1993 about the entanglement of clothing in school bus handrails and issued several consumer warnings. The safety agency investigated the handrail designs of all major school bus manufacturers and nine subsequently conducted safety recalls to make the handrails in their buses less prone to snagging incidents.

The manufacturers took these actions even though the safety problem was with the clothing children were wearing, not the handrail designs that had been in use for many incident-free years. As a result of separate investigations by the Consumer Product Safety Commission of problems with clothing snagging on playground equipment and fences, clothing manufacturers developed industry standards for drawstrings on childrens' clothing.

Snagging incidents in school buses have declined, but in 1997 a Maryland girl was dragged after a drawstring snagged, as was a Rhode Island girl in 1998 when her backpack became wedged in the handrail. Fortunately, neither was injured seriously.

Millman and Martin urged school bus fleet operators to make sure that the necessary repairs were made to older buses and keep awareness about this problem high by emphasizing it during school bus driver training.

"Before pulling away from each stop, drivers should look at the closed exit door carefully and then use their outside mirrors to look again to make sure a child is not still attached to the bus," Martin said.

The handrails, also called grab rails, are located inside school buses, sometimes on both sides of the step well. Snagging occurs when something gets wedged between the body of the bus and the lower end of the handrail or in the door itself. School bus manufacturers have designed simple remedies that fill the gap to prevent the likelihood of snagging.

According to Martin, the big yellow school bus is one of the safest forms of transportation in the U.S. and fatal incidents involving school buses are rare events. He credits the industry's stellar safety record to its vigilance in alerting parents and school officials to even potential problems; the sheer size of the school bus that gives it an advantage in all but the most severe crashes; extensive federal safety requirements that exceed those for other passenger vehicles; and the skill, special licensing requirements and training of school bus drivers.

Each year, about 440,000 public school buses travel 4.3 billion miles, transporting 23.5 million school children. Over the past ten years, an average of nine school-age children died as occupants of school buses, and 22 were killed as pedestrians struck while getting on or off the bus (including those who were killed in snagging incidents). 
 

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