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.)
| August 16, 2010; 1:25 PM ET
Categories: Driving, Traffic Safety, Transit, Transportation Politics
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