The rule will apply to large motorcoaches beginning in November 2016.

NHTSA Mandating Seat Belts on New Motorcoaches

The agency's final rule will affect over-the-road buses and large buses weighing more than 26,000 pounds. Most fatal crashes of such buses are rollovers, and occupant ejections account for 66 percent of the deaths in those crashes, according to the rule.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a final rule Nov. 20 that will require lap and shoulder seat belts for every seat on new motorcoaches and other large buses beginning in November 2016. This addresses the first priority area, passenger ejection, in the agency's plan for improving bus safety, and it also fulfills a mandate in the new federal transportation funding law enacted in July 2012. The agency considered applying the requirement to buses manufactured before November 2016 but said it decided not to after assessing the costs and benefits.

The rule will affect new over-the-road buses and large buses weighing more than 26,000 pounds. Most fatal crashes of such buses are rollovers, and occupant ejections account for 66 percent of the deaths in those crashes. It states, citing data from NHTSA's Fatal Analysis Reporting System. "Safety is our highest priority and we are committed to reducing the number of deaths and injuries on our roadways. Today's rule is a significant step forward in our efforts to improve motorcoach safety," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

NHTSA reports that an average of 21 motorcoach and large bus occupants are killed and 7,934 are injured annually in crashes. Requiring seat belts could cut fatalities by as much as 44 percent and reduce the number of moderate to severe injuries by as much as 45 percent, according to the agency.

"While travel on motorcoaches is overall a safe form of transportation, when accidents do occur, there is the potential for a greater number of deaths and serious injuries due to the number of occupants and high speeds at which the vehicles are traveling," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "Adding seat belts to motorcoaches increases safety for all passengers and drivers, especially in the event of a rollover crash."

The rule will amend Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards 208 and 210, the occupant crash protection standards, by making them apply to the affected buses. The total cost of adding the belts will be about $4.6 million, the agency estimates.

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