In the past, Conn's students have developed a "safer" handgun that does not fire in the hands of an unauthorized user; an infra-red mouth-held device that allows a paraplegic to operate a computer from a bed; an automatic wheelchair brake; a bicycle helmet that offers more protection than commercial headgear; and a wheelchair lift powered by a van's exhaust.
Transportation safety regulators and educators are expected to review the new restraining bar and the test results as part of an ongoing debate on how best to protect the more than 23 million children who ride school buses twice a day throughout the United States. Each year, these trips involve about 440,000 public school buses, traveling roughly 4.3 billion miles, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is in the midst of a school bus safety study.
Some parents and safety experts believe seat belts should be installed in buses, but only two states require them in the most common large school buses, those weighing more than 10,000 pounds. Proponents say seat belts would reduce school bus injuries, curb behavior problems and help students get in the habit of buckling up in all vehicles. Critics, however, argue that seat belts could cause additional head and abdominal injuries and hinder evacuation of students after a crash.
Would a different type of restraint system settle the debate? Last fall, the
engineering students were assigned to find out. They designed and built the
restraining bar in a
class project sponsored by the
Contact: Phil Sneiderman
Johns Hopkins University