The New NHTSA Commercial Bus Seat Belt Law – 17 Important Facts
by The Coach Team
This week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration enacted regulations that mandate lap and shoulder seat belts on commercial buses. This ruling has been on the table for almost 4 decades, and has long been debated and delayed. In general, the motor coach industry has been somewhat unsupportive of this requirement change. There are many reasons for this, creating much ongoing debate within the industry and regulatory bodies.
Each year there is an average of 20 commercial bus passenger or driver fatalities out of our country’s approximately 700 million commercial bus passengers. This figure has not changed over the past 25 years. It should be noted that the other 720 yearly bus accident related deaths were people not riding in a bus – they were in cars or light trucks that crashed with buses.
Bus accidents do unfortunately happen. Proponents of commercial bus seat belts have stressed that most of these tragedies happen in rollover crashes.
There has been an accident on I-95 that has been cited often because the vehicle rolled over and hit an upright sign stanchion in New Rochelle, NY. It has been said that seat belts would have saved many injuries. An independent study, however, states that seat belts might have caused more fatalities because of the way the sign sheared off the top of the vehicle at a height where upright belted in passengers would have been impacted.
Motor Coach Seat Belts – Interesting Related Facts
- The current fleet of commercial motor coaches in the USA is close to 30,000
- These tour buses transport over 700 million passengers per year
- 700 million passengers per year is almost an equivalent number to America’s airline passenger total
- The finalized NHTSA regulation is only for new motor coaches being manufactured now – existing buses on the road are not required to be retrofitted with new seat belts
- Passengers are NOT required to actually wear the seat belts by the NHTSA regulation, thought individual states can make their use mandatory
- Surprisingly, less than 3% of bus passengers actually wear the seat belts when they are provided
- Injuries and deaths more often happen when passengers are ejected from the vehicle – however passenger’s low % of wearing provided belts would not help this statistic
- In Europe, passengers who do not wear provided seat belts cannot claim damages in lawsuits
- Airport and rental car shuttle buses are exempt from this regulation
- School buses and city transit buses are exempt from this regulation
- Federal Government buses are also exempt from this regulation
- Trains, trolleys & subways have similar accident and fatality rates as buses, however seat belts are not required for that type of transportation
- A new motor coach costs between $475,000 to $650,000
- Adding seat belts to a new bus during initial manufacturing will add approximate $25,000 to the cost of the vehicle
- Retrofitting seat belts to tour buses already on the road would cost approximately $40,000 per bus
- Motor coaches older than 2008 do not support seat belt retrofit because of differences in construction
We are certain the commercial bus seat belt debate will continue with a variety of strong opinions expressed. Most bus operators approve of having seat belts in all new Motor Coaches. Time will tell if passengers with diligently wear these safety additions.
A Motor Coach Operator’s Opinion on Bus Safety
Here is our opinion which we will add as the most important fact of this article:
- Reputable tour bus companies – like Coach Tours – have always put your safety as the number one priority, and our record speaks for itself. Our vehicles are meticulously maintained, and our drivers are the top professionals in the entire industry. We have been known as a leader in commercial motor coach bus safety, and our valued passengers choose us as their North East bus carrier after looking at the safety records of all charter bus companies in our covered territory.
If you have any additional questions regarding tour bus safety, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We feel we are more experienced and knowledgeable above and beyond anyone else servicing the North Eastern area. We look forward to getting you safely to your desired location with care and professionalism every mile of the way!