The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today issued a final rule requiring lap and shoulder seat belts for each passenger and driver seat on new motorcoaches and other large buses. The new rule, a safety measure fought for by safety experts for nearly a half century, will significant reduce the risk of fatalities and serious injuries in frontal crashes and the risk of occupant ejection in rollovers. Federal accident investigators first recommended motorcoaches be equipped with seat belts in 1968 in response to a California highway crash that killed 19 passengers.
According to NHTSA, on average, 21 motorcoach and large bus occupants are killed and 7,934 are injured annually in motor vehicle crashes. Requiring seat belts could reduce fatalities by up to 44 percent and reduce the number of moderate to severe injuries by up to 45 percent.
“While travel on motorcoaches is overall a safe form of transportation, when accidents do occur, there is the potential for a greater number of deaths and serious injuries due to the number of occupants and high speeds at which the vehicles are traveling,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “Adding seat belts to motorcoaches increases safety for all passengers and drivers, especially in the event of a rollover crash.”
The final rule applies to new over-the-road buses and to other types of new buses with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 11,793 kilograms (26,000 pounds), except transit buses and school buses. This final rule fulfills a mandate from the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). Beginning in November 2016, newly manufactured buses will be required to be equipped with lap and shoulder belts for each driver and passenger seat.
Several companies have already begun voluntarily purchasing buses that include seat belts and the Department will continue encouraging the industry to speed the adoption of lap and shoulder seat belts prior to the mandatory deadline.