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Feds consider bus safety belts

If you're riding a bus between D.C. and New York, the federal government may soon require that lap/shoulder belts be installed to lessen the risk of riders being thrown from the motorcoach in the event of a crash.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the proposal by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Monday.

The rule would define a "motorcoach" as being an "intercity, tour, or commuter bus" having a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds that seats at least 16 passengers and has at least two rows of forward-facing seats behind the driver.

"We're committed to making sure that motorcoach travelers reach their destinations safely," LaHood said. "Seat belts save lives, and putting them in motorcoaches just makes sense."

The regulation would exclude urban transit buses and large school buses, the proposal says. NHTSA said fewer crashes resulting in passenger ejections and fatalities occur on urban buses. NHTSA expressed concern that the cost of buying the upgraded buses "could result in fewer school buses used to transport children and more students having to use alternative, less safe means to get to school." NHTSA also said that statistics show "that the safety need for seat belts on large school buses is low."

Small school buses (less than 10,000 pounds) are required to have lap/shoulder restraints beginning next year.

Federal data indicate that 19 motorcoach occupants are killed each year. The installation of the belts "could reduce the risk for passengers of being killed in a rollover crash by 77 percent," according to NHTSA.

NHTSA officials estimate that the requirement would save up to eight lives and prevent 144 to 794 injuries each year. The cost to add the belts to the design of new vehicles and to make necessary structural changes would be about $13,000 per vehicle, plus increased costs for fuel due to the additional weight, according to government estimates.

The rule would not require retrofitting buses, although NHTSA is asking for comment on the possibility of requiring upgrades for buses that are less than five years old.

The proposed rule, which is open for public comment for the next 90 days, would take effect three years after the rule is finalized, officials said. A copy of the rule is available here (Be warned; it's a large PDF.)

Comments may be submitted online.

By Michael Bolden  | August 16, 2010; 1:25 PM ET
Categories:  Driving, Traffic Safety, Transit, Transportation Politics  
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Regarding school buses, I remember when I was a kid they briefly tried requiring lap belts on school buses. Didn't work too well because a lot of the kids spent more time swinging the belt buckles at each other than they did wearing them.

Posted by: 1995hoo | August 16, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Restraining belts on a commuter train will not be well received.

Too many people work on the train. Being confined to the seat - especially when there is space to spread the work out, may make for even more space as passengers take to the skis - at least in a plan, you only need to buckle up when you take off and land.

Posted by: asmith1 | August 16, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

"$13,000 per vehicle"


Posted by: jiji1 | August 16, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse


I suggest that you read the article before you post. Nowhere are commuter trains mentioned. This is an article about busses.

Posted by: matt57 | August 16, 2010 11:25 PM | Report abuse

Let's see: 2000 motorcoaches manufactured annually in the US, and $13,000 each to upgrade them. That's $26 million per year, to save a theoretical 8 lives a year. More than $3 million per life saved.

Not an outrageous amount, to be sure. But it's interesting that in so many other areas of public policy, we choose to pass up opportunities to save lives at a very small fraction of that per-life cost (e.g. establishing preventive medicine clinics for under-served populations, ending agricultural subsidies for corn, strict speeding enforcement, etc, etc).

Posted by: kcx7 | August 16, 2010 11:44 PM | Report abuse

For only $1.5 million, I will promise to stay off buses. It's a 50% savings!

Posted by: jiji1 | August 17, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Please go to and take note. While every life is important..please note that
over 400 lives are lost due to "Passenger Cars That Tow Trailers" Over 16,000 are injured and nothing is done except Senate Bill 646 in Virginia?

How many more lives needs to be lost before we address...

Since 1975 over 15,211 lives lost...NOTHING IS DONE..

Since 1988 over 456,000 injured and nothing is done.

No standards except for lights for trailers under 3,000 GVWR.

No law ....except for Virginia Senate Bill 646 for using a rated Safety Chain...Why?

Anybody can build a Homemade trailer. Why?

Posted by: dusterrm1 | August 17, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Ask this question ...are you aware that anybody can drive a R.V. that is longer than a school bus..towing a trailer...and then towing a car on a REGULAR License!!!

The R.V. industry will fight this new law...because it will eat into their profit.

They don't want you to know that you do not need a CDL to drive a Monster R.V. yet they are having crashes all over the place.

Posted by: dusterrm1 | August 17, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

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