JAK’s Jottings

Webinar Takes You Through Automated Buses

Webinar is talking 21st century sci-fi! I am all about the thrill of updating school buses and their safety features! Not sure talking automated school buses is the best way to go but who doesn’t love rooting for th underdog ideas?

Mentioned is that it takes time for new technology to trickle down the automotive line and reach school buses and other larger vehicles- almost 20 years in some cases.  Cars can take the front line modifications due to their size and weight, then small vans and eventually pick up before we finally see an attempt at a bus. Currently buses are being equipped with some driving assistance systems and gps updates.

Id say we still have a ways to go before we have self parking or driving school buses! I have high hopes for the future of automation! Let’s bring about floating buses and sci-fi infused action!



New Nevada Seatbelt Law Passes

Starting July 1st, 2019 all newly purchased school buses must come equipped with lap-shoulder seats belts.  I have never been a huge fan of the seatbelt idea for school buses but with all of the new types of seatbelts available I am eager to further review the research they will be producing!

As always seatbelts will remain a hot topic.  With Nevada becoming the 7th state to have a school bus seatbelt law there are many changes on the horizon.

They are one of the few that have named a specific type of belt to be required and the law only states that any “newly purchased school buses” must be equipped. That said, most school bus companies do not buy brand new school buses and that means that there is a very simpler  work around for this law.

Another problem is that even thought the belts are required, it will be nearly impossible to enforce that students are wearing them let alone wearing them properly. This oversight is not something we can demand the driver to watch for and the budget of almost all districts restricts the ability to add a second adult to a route to oversee the students are following this new demand.

All in all the demand that buses come with seatbelts may not change anything unless they can come up with a way to make sure the student wear them.



Industry Vendor Debates Seatbelts

Jordan Puckett weighed in on the seat belt topic on April 11, 2017, in his article titled, “Should our buses have seat belts, both sides of the ongoing debate.”

His article oversimplifies the pros and cons of seatbelt use. He first states, “while this may at first seem like a no brainer ‘yes we should’ answer, many disagree.”

If it were a simple matter, there wouldn’t be a debate and no one would be disagreeing.

He cites the following “pros” to installing seatbelts:

• Educate students: installing seat belts gives our students training in consistent seatbelt use

• Prevent unsafe bus lawsuits: installing seatbelts could eliminate lawsuits filed for “unsafe” buses

• Improve student behavior: installing seatbelts would keep kids in their seats and bad behavior would disappear

• Eliminate student ejection in crashes: installing seat belts will keep students inside the bus during a collision

• Increase parental confidence in the yellow school bus: installing seat belts will give parents more confidence in transportation systems

• Keep students fixed in their locations: installing seat belts – even lap belts – will help keep students from sliding around the bus seat

Puckett makes assumptions about the safety improvements offered by seat belts. Using them to educate students, manage their behavior, and making their parents feel good are all good things if seat belts do not cause harm to students. The same is true about potential lawsuits: if the seat belts themselves cause harm, we are going to be sued anyway.

We have, as an industry, done much to prevent ejection. The way we construct the seating compartment (aka the chassis) has made it far less likely that there will be any openings even in a very serious crash.

His final point, that even a lap-belts-only system could improve the overall passenger experience by keeping students fixed in their seating location instead of sliding across the seats, is erroneous. We know that lap belts cause harm to young students. We know that internal damage to their less-protected abdomens and internal organs increases with the use of lap belts. We have proven in multiple studies that the only product we want to approve as an industry is a three-point harness, because studies have indicated that in some crashes, three-point harnesses could improve student safety. The problem is that until we install them in a large number of vehicles and use our students as crash test dummies, we cannot be certain our tests are accurate. I’m not a fan of using our students as crash test dummies.

Puckett made the opposing case too. He points out the reasons we may have to argue against installing seat belts. I refute each of his points directly following the bullet point:

• Seat belts are expensive. The cost of the bus and all of its safety enhancements are passed on to the consumer. No one within the industry, not private contractors or school districts, assumes the cost of the seat belts; it is, in fact, paid for by American taxpayers. Also, the cost of a student’s life is immeasurable. No one who has experienced a traumatic crash would use this point as an argument against seat belts.

• School buses are already very safe because they travel below or right at the speed limit and the seating compartment is above the impact point of most vehicles. Buses travel at high speeds, and even at low speeds some crashes are serious. Trusting that they all travel below or right at the speed limit is making a fairly ridiculous assumption.

The point about the seating compartment being high off the ground, above the level of impact in most crashes, is very valid, and part of a sound case against installing seat belts in school buses.

• Installed seat belts could cause difficulty extracting students if there were a fire. (Of course, he fails to mention water.) There are very few cases of school bus fire, and they become more rare as the vehicle standards improve nationally, and as bus inspectors get better at correcting flaws in the mechanical operation before it becomes an issue.

• Students may or may not actually use the seat belts. So much for making the point that we will be educating students on consistent, life-time use of seatbelts by installing them, at great expense to taxpayers.

Drivers would necessarily have to be exempted from any regulation requiring them to enforce the use of seat belts, just like school administration would have to treat misuse or non-use as a punishable infraction.

• Puckett wonders what would happen when more students tried to fit in a seat than there were seat belts. This is a more serious issue than just a point in an argument opposing seat belts. Each bus would have to have the number of seat belts as the bus is (nationally) regulated to carry. Some states allow students to stand – again, a more serious issue than this article addresses. If seat belts improve student safety, every student needs to have one.

I find it perplexing that this article was referenced by an industry publication. The online link redirects the reader to a website for school transportation-related products, so it seems to be more of an advertising ploy than a valid article about seat belts.

Seat belts? Well, that topic is definitely not disappearing from industry conversations any time soon.

School Transportation Technology and JAK the App

We have been sharing some information on the development of JAK the App. In her years in the school transportation industry, Kari identified 14 headaches for school transportation personnel. In the below audio clip of the interview with Tim Hennagir, Managing Editor of the Monticello Times, Kari discusses technology in school transportation, her development of JAK the App, and how JAK addresses 13 of the 14 headaches.

Aftermath of a Crash


When a school bus is involved in a crash there are about a thousand things that need to be addressed immediately. We need to know how bad the crash was, who was involved, why the bus crashed, and do children need to be sent to the hospital? These are just the beginning of what needs to be assessed.

Then, there is what the media wants to know: who was involved, why did the bus crash, do children need to be sent to the hospital, and why were they not required to wear seatbelts on the school bus? That last question concerns me. I have been raised in a school bus filled world and as part of a privately owned school bus company. I feel that this question has caused a lot of anger and confusion over the years. I have never understood why it was so hard to understand. Personally, when they tally the votes for putting seatbelts in school buses they can put my vote firmly on the NO side of the board.

No, I’m not against safety. No, I’m not against improving our school buses. However, I don’t believe that putting seatbelts in school buses is necessarily the right or best way to increase safety for children on board.  What I do believe is that in the last 23 years of my life I have been surrounded by people and an industry who bleed yellow. These people strive and demand to make school buses the safest they can be and they agree that the research and the testing does not tell us that seatbelts will always save the lives lost in past crashes.

I bring this up because of the recent school bus accident in Chattanooga that killed 7 children. Unfortunately, that accident was the fault of the driver’s poor reasoning and lack of training. As far as accidents go, this one was completely avoidable. The media asked their same questions and the answer they were given is that a local government has passed the first stage of having seatbelts required on school buses as of 2019. I don’t agree but if this makes the community feel better about this accident then they will do what they need to do.

I would have preferred an overhaul on their training program, an overhaul on their discipline program, an overhaul on the staff. They are the ones who failed those children by not following up with the driver and they are the ones responsible for this loss of life. I think the change needs to start with people; in this case the school bus did nothing wrong.

School bus companies needs to invest in exceptional driver training and follow up. This will make a noticeable difference in student safety. 

Chattanooga crash picture from www.abcnews.go.com

Kari’s Passion for the School Bus Industry

Kari conducted an interview in April with Tim Hennagir, Managing Editor of the Monticello Times, to discuss her book and school transportation technology. In this audio clip, Kari discusses her quest for knowledge in the school transportation industry and how that shaped her in her career.

Praise for Unspoken Sorrow – review on Amazon

5.0 out of 5 stars
Worth the read!
Bychaseron April 15, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition

Very interesting book and until reading it I didn’t really know much about this tragedy as we
were not members of the Monticello community yet. My heart goes out to all those affected
by this horrific event. And for all Kari has endured in her life. My own kids ride Hoglund
busses daily. My one request voiced to Kari in 2009 concerning a drop-off location was
granted very graciously and I have always remembered her comment and how nice she
was about it. Thank you for your passion in working to keep our kids safe and for all your
hard work throughout the years.
Good luck with your future plans!

This is from a community member who had not even lived in Monticello, MN during the
crash but had heard about it through the grapevine. I know this accident was big news. It left a lasting impression on the community and still affects them today. As someone who was raised in Monticello and worked for Hoglund transportation I know how greatly this affected me. I appreciate that this story is able to help others who only heard the absolute worst! No one will remember the day the same way but
here is a new side to the national story. Read it.   — Haleigh

MN DPS Leads the Way

The first talk about the book, Unspoken Sorrow: Whispers From a Broken Heart takes place this month!

Kari will be presenting book and crash topics to the Shareholders group on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Minnesota State Director of Pupil Transportation, Lt. Brain Reu, extended the invitation for the 45-minute event.  

She will be speaking to transportation operators, trainers, and other officials. Kari is looking forward to sharing the story and believes it will help increase student safety.

The talk will cover the events of April 10th, 1997, some commentary about the aftermath, and information about how those events led to the development of JAK the App. There will be ample time for attendee questions.

Public Forum

Below is an Amazon review of Kari Hoglund Kounkel’s book Unspoken Sorrow: Whispers From a Broken Heart. Kari is the creator and founder of JAK the App. The book tells her story of the tragic school bus accident in Monticello, MN in 1997. For more information about the book, visit myunspokensorrow.com or Unspoken Sorrow Kindle Version . Please share your thoughts on the book.

on April 13, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition
The author provides an account of a community’s tragic bus accident from a perspective not many would ever get the opportunity to know about. I found this perspective interesting. The author had an administrative position with the bus company with a professional role to fulfill and yet also had a human side that she had to attempt to deal with. She too, was a member of the Monticello, MN community having been born and raised there. It’s wasn’t an easy task to separate the two roles in her life and this book explains things from her perspective. Regulations, advice from legal counsel and pending insurance issues prohibited her from discussing the details of the bus accident. Many will not understand what the author had to endure under these circumstances and she is sharing her side of the story. There is understanding within these pages. The book is only 78 pages but the information adds light to a tragic event that is very difficult to process or understand. For many, the emotional traumas of this bus accident will be life long.
Unspoken Sorrow is a story known at one point by the country. Kari brings forth her side, a view point left untold. Her sorrow left unspoken is what has driven her to become all that she is today and will result in an industry changing application. I take the voices remarking on her experience seriously and in turn they are supporting her and her right to finally, after 20 years of near silence, speak.


Kindle Version of Unspoken Sorrow Available

A story is being shared…

The kindle version of Unspoken Sorrow: Whispers From a Broken Heart was released at Amazon on April 10, the 20th anniversary of the bus crash. In this powerful book, Kari Kounkel shares her perspective and grief from the bus crash, as well as the effects it had on her life. Kari shares her knowledge of the school transportation industry and how these events led to the development of JAK the App. The book is a story of death, recovery, and redemption. The print version will be available this summer.

Below is the link to the book:

Unspoken Sorrow: Whispers From a Broken Heart