The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) through its Administrator Mark Rosekind today announced that it would support but not require three point seat belts in school buses. The hope is that school bus makers will now install seat belts in their new buses. This is a new position for NHTSA. It will now conduct further research into the issue of seat belts by studying jurisdictions that already have them and to determine the financial issue of cost. NHTSA will start working with other Federal agencies to find funds for the transition to seat belts. Presently California, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, Louisiana and New York have requirements for two or three point seat belts. Statistics from these states will provide basic information on the use of seat belts in school buses.
In the past NHTSA announced that starting next November, all new motor coaches (think Greyhound) will be required to have three point seat belts installed. Now the issue of whether seat belts will be required in school buses will again be addressed. In the past its position was that large school buses are safe due to the weight of the bus and the configuration of the interior or compartmentalization. It determined in the past that only one or two lives would be saved if seat belts were mandatory. In 2008, NHTSA required that all buses weighing under 10,000 pounds (Type A) are required to have three point seat belts primarily because they resemble regular vehicles in weight and size.
NHTSA is also addressing safety in other areas of concern such as students traveling by foot or bicycle, students waiting at school bus stops and vehicles illegally passing buses when they are picking up students with their lights on and safety arms out.