Hundreds of people die each year in fatal traffic accidents where they are traveling in a large bus or motorcoach. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association has been tracking these fatality statistics since 1975, and as the New York Times recently pointed out, the number of deaths in bus crashes has not changed much over the years.
Accordingly, bus crashes have been the focus of federal safety scrutiny for awhile now, particularly when big bus accidents make the news as numbers of people have tragically died in high speed bus accidents. One week’s example is found in our July 2013 blog post entitled, “Four Serious Bus Crashes In The News This Week: How Dangerous Is It For You Or Your Kids To Ride On A Bus?”
Proposed federal rules and regulations have been considered as the federal government continues to find ways to make bus travel safer. This week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) officially issued the final rule established by the federal government which will mandate seat belts not only for bus drivers but for every passenger – safety belts for both the lap and the shoulder (just like the required safety belts in today’s sedans and minivans).
49 CFR 571 Expanded to Include Seat Belts on Motorcoaches and Large Buses
The rule (see 49 CFR Part 571), applies to new motorcoaches and other large buses, but excludes school buses and transit buses. Specifically, the new bus seat belt rule applies to applies to new over-the-road buses and to other new buses with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 11,793 kilograms (26,000 pounds) and becomes effect in November 2016. School buses are being considered in separate rule-making legislation which will appear in another section of 49 CFR 571.
How Big a Change is This in Bus Safety?
It’s debatable how much this new regulation will change things out on the road. Don’t be surprised if you step on a commercial bus and don’t see any seat belts for the driver or the passengers. The new regulation doesn’t make buses already on the road have safety belts installed on them; this rule applies only to new buses being sold in the United States after November 2016.