The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is proposing new rules to improve school bus safety by expanding the use of shoulder belts. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters made the announcement in Morrisville, N.C. last week.
Peters has also proposed increasing the height of seat backs on all school buses from 20 inches to 24 inches to better protect children from injuries during accidents, according to an Associated Press news report. The first batch of school buses to begin using these restraints will be the shorter school buses that are said to be more prone to rollover accidents. Longer buses may not need restraints right away. Instead the federal agency is leaving it up to the school districts to get funding to purchase new buses with seat belts.
According to the news report, a new school bus equipped with restraints costs $10,000 more than one without seatbelts. Most of the nation’s schools now have higher seat backs. School districts will have three years to begin having seatbelts in the smaller buses, which currently use only lap belts.
The department will make a decision on this proposal after a 60-day public comment period. The proposal is available online here.
It’s about time that our federal standards not requiring our kids to buckle up in school buses changed! It is bizarre to believe that children travelling in a big bus will not suffer injuries just because they are in a bigger vehicle even if they are not belted. Have we learned nothing from 15-passenger van accidents where it has been determined time and time again that people die because they’re not wearing their seatbelts?
It is illegal for anyone driving or riding in a car, truck, recreational vehicle or any vehicle for that matter to do so without buckling up. We cannot place a child or infant in a vehicle without placing him or her in a car seat with proper restraint systems. We know that seatbelts save lives. To believe that this does not apply to a big, yellow school bus is an absurd and dangerous notion.
We hope federal officials pass these important regulations after the 60-day public comment period. It’s vital for the safety of our children.