Bus Safety Buzz Kill

Nearly a quarter of a century ago, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that motor coaches be equipped with seat belts. And for nearly a quarter of a century, bus manufacturers have been quite adept at ensuring that never happens. Compartmentalization, don’t you know. No need. Envelope of safety, and all that.

In August, however, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a proposed rulemaking that would require new motor coaches to have lap-shoulder belts. Specifically, the new regulation would establish a new definition for motor coaches and amend FMVSS 208, Occupant Crash Protection, to require the installation of lap/shoulder belts at all driver and passenger seating positions, and the installation of lap/shoulder belts at driver seating positions of large school buses. (Six states, Florida, Texas, California, Louisiana, New Jersey and New York, and some municipalities currently require seat belts on school buses.)

Round 437: No One Cares About Kids in Cars – Still

Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board gathered all the government, industry and academic play-ahs in the board room of its headquarters to answer a question that’s been nagging safety advocates: Why doesn’t anyone give a damn about child safety in cars and planes?

The day-long meeting was meant to be a kick-off to the NTSB’s 2011 focus on child safety in airplanes and automobiles, with a special focus on increasing child restraint and seat belt use rates. Note to NTSB: you might want to allocate more time to this project – the lag in child safety regulation and industry practices has been the sad state of affairs for decades. Decades.

First up was the Federal Aviation Administration. The agency defended its practice of allowing children to fly without child safety restraints. Without a hint of irony, the FAA said that such a requirement would result in more people driving rather than flying, putting children at higher risk because the injury and fatality rates for children in motor vehicle crashes far surpasses that those in an airplane.

Compartmentalization Compartmentalized

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The new Secretary of Transportation of Ray LaHood is about to throw the commercial motor coach manufacturer's favorite non-safety strategy off the bus. The Detroit News reported yesterday that NHTSA will be moving to require seat belts on motor coaches - a long overdue improvement. Bus manufacturers have fended off regulations for decades, arguing that occupants were adequately protected from crash forces by compartmentalization - the space around them enclosed by the seat backs behind and in front of them and the side structure.

NHTSA Proposes Upgrades to School Bus Regulations; Big Yellow Buses Get another Pass on Three-Point Belts

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Five years after it issued a comprehensive report on its school bus safety research, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration declined to propose a requirement that three-point seatbelts be installed in full-size school buses - which agency research has shown to provide better occupant protection than lap belts or compartmentalization alone - because its is too expensive to implement, it said.

Instead, the agency is proposing to require shoulder/lap belts on small buses, to improve compartmentalization on large school buses and to establish lap/shoulder belt requirements for districts that wish to install them voluntarily.