PhotoIt won't be long before you have to buckle up when you ride the bus.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a final rule requiring lap and shoulder seat belts for each passenger and driver seat on new motorcoaches and other large buses. The rule is designed to reduce the risk of fatalities and serious injuries in frontal crashes and the risk of occupant ejection in rollovers.

"Safety is our highest priority and we are committed to reducing the number of deaths and injuries on our roadways," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. He calls the rule “a significant step forward in our efforts to improve motorcoach safety."

Reducing deaths and injuries

NHTSA data show that -- on average -- 21 motorcoach and large bus occupants are killed and 7,934 are injured annually in motor vehicle crashes. Requiring seat belts, the agency says, could reduce fatalities by up to 44% and reduce the number of moderate to severe injuries by up to 45%.

"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."

Three-year lead time

The final rule, which amends Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208, applies to new over-the-road buses and to other types of new buses with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 26,000 pounds, except transit buses and school buses. Beginning in November 2016, newly manufactured buses will be required to be equipped with lap and shoulder belts for each driver and passenger seat.

Several companies have already begun voluntarily purchasing buses that include seat belts and the agency will continue encouraging the industry to speed the adoption of lap and shoulder seat belts prior to the mandatory deadline.  


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