Peters Says New Federal Rule Makes School Buses Safer

New federal rules will make the nation's 474,000 school buses safer by requiring higher seat backs, mandating lap and shoulder belts on small school buses, and setting safety standards for seat belts on large school buses, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters announced on Oct. 15.

"Even though riding in school buses is the safest form of travel in America today, any accident is still a tragedy," Peters said. "Taken together, these steps are designed with a single purpose, making children safer."

Peters said the new rule requires all new school buses in America to be equipped with 24-inch-high seat backs, instead of the 20-inch-high seat backs required today. Higher seat backs will help prevent taller and heavier children from being thrown over the seat in a crash, decreasing the chance of injury to them and the children in front of them.

She added that all new school buses weighing less than five tons will be required to have three-point seat belts. She noted that the lap and shoulder belts better protect children in small buses, adding that smaller school buses are more vulnerable because they don't absorb shock as well as larger buses.

The secretary said the federal government also was setting new standards for seat belts on large school buses. Standards will improve seat belt safety and help lower the cost of installing the belts. Peters cautioned, however, that seat belts on larger buses can limit capacity and force more students to walk or ride in cars to school, which is statistically more dangerous.

"The last thing we want to do is force parents to choose other, less safe ways of getting their children to school," she said, noting that this is why she said the federal government also would begin allowing school districts to use federal highway safety funds to pay for the cost of installing belts.

To read the rule, click here.

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