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NHTSA reg would mandate seat belts on commercial buses

Written by Steve Gursten Posted May 6th, 2013

Seat belts on buses are estimated to save up to eight lives a year, protect riders in rollover bus accidents

seat belts commercial buses

Seat belts on buses?  For many of us, the very idea of seat belts on buses is unusual.  But perhaps not for long. Seat belts save lives in bus accidents.  And now, the  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has indicated  that before the end of 2013, it will seek to finalize some very important new regulations involving buses.  Reportedly among those new regulations is a provision mandating seat belts on commercial buses.

This idea is not new. But it has been met with strong resistance.  A series of tragic and deadly bus crashes have again thrust the issue of bus safety into the public’s conscience.

The NHTSA proposal estimates that fitting commercial buses with seat belts will cost about $13,000 per bus, or about $25 million every year. However, existing buses without safety belts will not be required to be retrofitted. The regulation (as envisioned currently) would require only that new buses moving forward be equipped with functional safety belts.

The NTHSA estimates that mandating safety belts use on buses could save between one and eight lives every year.  Of course, that figure will vary depending on whether passengers actually use the safety belts once they’re made available.

The new proposal would be most effective in rollover bus accidents – the types that have made the national news.  In these kinds of bus crashes, passengers are thrown about and often suffer very serious, or even fatal, injuries.  Wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of a fatality by three quarters in a rollover bus accident scenario.

Approximately 19 people die per year in commercial bus accidents, according to the NHTSA. The NHTSA further estimates that a significant percentage of those victims could have been saved had a seat belt been available.

Despite strong resistance from the commercial bus industry, it appears that the regulations will be ready before the end of this year.  These new regulations will provide a much desired minimum level of safety for those who ride on  commercial bus systems for travel.

To the Roundtable Attorneys, who have litigated bus accidents in many different states, this is certainly a welcome development.  Given the number of deadly – and preventable – bus crashes this year caused by unfit  bus drivers and companies who should have had their operating licenses taken away, it is very clear that these commercial transportation companies are continuing to value profit over safety. One  example is New York and Boston motor carrier Fung Wah, which was shut down indefinitely for refusing to cooperate with the FMCSA during a safety investigation.

The Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable applauds the NHTSA for getting this on the agenda.  Hopefully this safety regulation is finalized soon.

Related information:

Find a safe bus company: Look before you book

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About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.