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Bus and Motorcoach Accident Safety in Focus as Government Mandates Seatbelts

Officials with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced that the final rule has been issued to make sure that all seats on new motorcoaches and large buses are equipped with seat belts. The new rule was created to increase the safety of these vehicles by helping to reduce the risks of death or serious injury in the event of a frontal crash and to help to reduce the risk of occupant ejection during a rollover accident.

“Today’s rule is a significant step forward in our efforts to improve motorcoach safety,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

Our personal injury attorneys in Vero Beach know there is, on average, 8,000 motorcoach occupants injured each year in traffic collisions. Officials believe that the requirement of seat belts on these vehicles will help to reduce the risk of passenger death by nearly 45 percent and the risk for severe injury by close to 50 percent.

The National Transportation Safety Board first recommended motorcoaches be equipped with seat belts in 1968, after investigating a highway crash that killed 19 passengers nearly the Mojave Desert town of Baker, California.

Although motorcoaches are overall the safest way to get around on roadways, it’s important to remember that accidents do occur, and are typically quite serious. South Florida is home to some of the most popular destination locations for tour buses nationwide.

This final rule, which amends Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208, will pertain to any over-the-road buses and to all buses that weigh more than 26,000 pounds. School buses and transit buses will not fall into this category.

The new rules announced by the transportation department do not go as far as requiring bus companies to retrofit existing vehicles with seat belts. DOT officials said it was encouraging companies to “voluntarily” add seat belts to buses that are on the road now, however.

The nation’s fleet of 29,000 motorcoaches transports about 700 million passengers a year in the United States, roughly equivalent to the domestic airline industry, according to the United Motorcoach Association. Since these buses are on the road for an average of about 20 to 25 years, this rule will take some time to be put into effect. However, it’s a critical step in passenger safety.

Officials estimate that the addition of seat belts to buses would add between $8,000 and $15,000 to the cost of each bus. In addition, seatbelts would take up room currently used as seats, meaning that each bus would have fewer seating places. The additional room in the bus taken up by seatbelts would mean that bus fleets would have to increase by as much as 15 percent just to carry the same number of people.

“Consumers have come to expect seat belts in all motor vehicles; the regulator needs to get with the program and establish requirements that are long overdue. This is a simple issue: restraints save lives,” said Deborah Hersman, acting chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

If you or someone in your family has been involved in a bus accident, Freeman Injury Law offers a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. 1-800-561-7777.

More Blog Entries:

Broward Bus Driver “Retires” Before Being Fired, South Florida Injury Lawyers Blog, February 25, 2013

Twelve Accidents and Bus Driver Stays on Payroll, South Florida Injury Lawyers Blog, February 4, 2013

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