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Transport Canada says it will soon require all newly built highway buses to have seatbelts.

The federal department said Wednesday it will make seatbelts mandatory on medium and large highway buses starting Sept. 1, 2020.

“We’ve all heard the message to buckle up over the years, and I think it’s time we brought this approach to highway buses too,” Transport Minister Marc Garneau said in a release. “By having seatbelts on highway buses, we can help reduce injuries in severe collisions, such as rollovers, and improve safety for everyone.”

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The department said it first proposed the change in 2017, and has consulted industry groups. It said it takes time to design and build vehicles so the date will allow enough time to make the changes.

Mandatory seatbelt use on buses has been in the spotlight since April 6 when a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team collided with a semi-truck in rural Saskatchewan. Sixteen people were killed and 13 others were injured.

A lawsuit filed by the parents of one of the players this week asked for a court order requiring all buses carrying sports teams in Saskatchewan to be equipped with seatbelts.

A charter company reached by The Canadian Press said a lot of the newer buses already have seatbelts, but it’s tough for drivers to make sure people wear them for the duration of the trip.

“They get on the bus, they do up their seatbelt and the driver does the walk-through and the seatbelts are on,” said Robbie Enns, a manager with KMJ Charters in Acheson, Alta. “Once the driver does the walk-through, he goes and he drives and he can’t pay attention to it.”

Seatbelt use falls under the jurisdiction of the provincial and territorial governments, and is enforced by police in each area.

The provinces also have jurisdiction on any equipment requirements for buses that are already on the road so the new rules only apply to newly built buses.

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Transport Canada said medium-sized buses are defined as having a weight over 4,536 kilograms.

It said small buses, with the exception of school buses, are already required to have lap and shoulder belts. The department said the new rules won’t apply to school buses, because they are already designed to protect children in a crash.

Operators could install them voluntarily if they meet Transport Canada’s requirements.

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