ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Most students who go to school take the bus.

This fall, the St. Paul school district is trying something new to improve student safety and behavior on the bus. WCCO’s Angela Davis tells us about the pilot program that puts seat belts on a bus.

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“This is the future, that’s my prediction,” Tom Burr, the transportation director for St. Paul Public Schools, said.

The transportation director for St. Paul Public Schools is taking the lead on what’s been a widely-debated topic.

“You get in a car and there are seat belts, so why aren’t there seat belts on school buses? It’s been talked about in our industry for years,” Burr said.

This fall, the school district is installing seat belts that go across the shoulder and lap on one of its new buses. But not until mid-October.

That’s because they want six weeks to observe students without the seat belts so they can compare it to six weeks of them wearing the restraints. They’ll study video from bus cameras.

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“One of the most difficult things in the school bus industry is to keep, especially little ones, seated. This solves the issue. If they are buckled up they are not going to be moving around,” Burr said.

Improved technology has made seat belts better at protecting kids from side impact crashes. Nationally, only a handful of states require seat belts on large school buses.

In those states, they say they’ve seen an added benefit of being strapped in: Better student behavior.

“If you can imagine a 4 or 5-year-old, they can’t even see outside of this compartment, so there is a natural tendency to move around and look around,” Burr said. “They are the safest transportation on the road. This just adds another dimension of safety.”

Burr says the interior of a school bus is already designed to provide crash protection through closely-situated high seats capable of absorbing force. It costs about $10,000 to outfit one school bus with seat belts.

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If the pilot goes well, the district will add seat belts to more of its buses.