National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Motor Vehicle Accident on Tuesday, January 22, 2013

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced plans to require seatbelts on commercial buses. NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said in an interview at the North American International Auto Show that the rule should issue “very soon,” with implementation taking three years.

Seatbelts on commercial buses have long been urged, as a basic safety feature. Congress first ordered seat belts installed on passenger cars in 1959 a means of reducing fatalities in motor vehicle accidents, but Congress only passed legislation last year that instructed NHTSA to create regulations that would require them for commercial buses.

The law, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) also will require buses will be built to better withstand rollover accidents.

Bus rollovers are deadly for passengers, because passengers are at risk to being crushed by the bus and rollover accidents often eject passengers from the bus. Ejection accidents at highway speeds typically are fatal.

The Detroit News notes NHTSA has indicated that lap-shoulder belts “could reduce the death risk for passengers in a rollover crash by 77 percent.”

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reports that “From 2000-2007, there were 1,093 fatal accidents involving large buses, resulting in 1,315 fatalities and 3,471 injuries.”

At this time, the NHTSA will not require that seat belts be retrofitted to all existing buses due to the high cost that could put some smaller bus companies out of business, but they could require that later. Bus safety belts are just one part of a campaign to improve bus safety.

Areas of focus include driver fatigue and behavior, better vehicle maintenance and oversight of operators of bus companies.

Source: The Detroit News, “Feds finalizing new rules that include bus seat belts,” David Shepardson, Jan. 17, 2013

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