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Improved bus safety the goal of federal proposals

Federal safety officials are looking to make a move this year to improve bus safety. There are a number of ways they envision bolstering rider safety while on buses, but the primary endeavor for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is to enact a law that requires new buses to be equipped with over-the-shoulder seat belts.

According to the agency, the rule would reduce the fatality risk posed to passengers in a bus rollover accident by 77 percent. That's an astonishing figure, and if true, it certainly represents a massive boost to rider safety.

Curiously, though, the NHTSA will not require bus carriers to retrofit their vehicles with over-the-shoulder seat belts under this proposal. However, the NHTSA could add a provision in the law that allows them to force bus carriers to retrofit their older vehicles if they are unhappy with the way the carriers are handling the proposed law.

The NHTSA would also like to finalize laws that address the structural integrity of buses (with a specific aim to improve vehicle safety in rollover accidents) and the general safety of the vehicle after an accident (such as improved emergency evacuation procedures and fire safety protocols).

Many people do not think of the dangers posed to passengers by buses (and the company that operates and manages them). Bus drivers need to be trained and validated with a commercial vehicle license; and the vehicles themselves need to pass inspections and routine maintenance checks to be allowed out on the road. In the absence of these responsible acts, an accident can occur; one that would prompt injured passengers to consider civil action against the driver and the company for their negligence.

Source: Detroit News, "Feds finalizing new rules that include bus seat belts," David Shepardson, Jan. 17, 2013

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