NHTSA Rejects School Bus Seat Belts Again

It denied a petition seeking lap and shoulder belts for all seats on all school buses, saying "we have not found a safety problem supporting a Federal requirement for lap/shoulder belts on large school buses, which are already very safe."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has again rejected a petition seeking a federal requirement that school buses be equipped with seat belts. In its denial published Aug. 25, NHTSA said the Center for Auto Safety and 21 others asked it in March 2010 to require lap/shoulder belts for all seating positions on all school buses. "We are denying the petition because we have not found a safety problem supporting a Federal requirement for lap/shoulder belts on large school buses, which are already very safe. The decision to install seat belts on school buses should be left to State and local jurisdictions, which can weigh the need for, benefits and consequences of installing belts on large school buses and best decide whether their particular pupil transportation programs merit installation of the devices," the notice says.

Besides the Center for Auto Safety, the petitioners included the National Coalition for School Bus Safety, Public Citizen, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, Consumers Union, KidsandCars.org, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Consumer Federation of America, SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A., the Trauma Foundation, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and the Orthopaedic Trauma Association.

About three years ago, NHTSA declined to require seat belts on school buses. This time, it said the petitioners' claims to support a federal rule raised nothing new since then. "School buses are one of the safest forms of transportation in the United States," the Aug. 25 denial reiterated. "Every year, approximately 485,500 school buses travel approximately 4.2 billion miles to transport 23 million children to and from school and school-related activities. The school bus occupant fatality rate of 0.23 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is nearly 6 times lower than the rates for passenger cars (1.29 per 100 million VMT). The safety of current school buses was confirmed by NAS in 2002."

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