It seems that every few months there is a story about a very bad tour bus accident with many injured, if not dead. Whether the accident is the result of driver negligence, mechanical failure or bad weather, one thing is certain…the addition of seat belts could have made the difference between life and death.
Buses of all sizes and for all purposes have previously not been required to have seat belts. It was believed that the interior design, known as compartmentalization, offered sufficient protection to passengers during an accident. For the last 50 years this has been the thought process among manufacturers and safety regulators.
This Will Soon Change
Starting in November 2016, all new motor coaches and large buses will be required to have 3-point safety harnesses installed. Seat belts will become mandatory on all buses used for tourism and traveling. The federal mandate did not specify if public transportation buses would be included.
The mandate, which has been nearly half a century in the making, is considered a positive move by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration who has stated that an average of 21 people are killed and 8,000 injured each year on the highways in these vehicles. The use of seat belts could eliminate a majority of these deaths and injuries. As noted by one car accident lawyer based, “Accidents happen every day, on the roads…Many times, these accidents cause injuries resulting in large medical bills, lost wages and other damages.”
What About School Buses?
It would seem natural that school buses have seat belts installed in them to protect the children. It would also seem a logical way to ensure that they stay in their seats during the ride which could help keep the driver from being distracted.
However, there are only six states that currently have regulations concerning seat belts in school buses, and only one that is willing to fund the law.
For example, Texas and Florida have both enacted very strict laws regarding school bus safety and the implementation of seat belts. Texas has even gone so far as to create a training program for the children so that all age groups and learning levels would know how to correctly use the devices. Sadly, the state legislature has decided that they cannot afford to fund the bill at this time, so it just sits pending. This is the exact scenario in the other states that have enacted these types of laws as well.
It is anticipated, based on the figures used to pass the seat belt law for the large passenger buses, that the cost of adding 54 seat belts to each bus is about $3,000 per vehicle. This seems like a very minimal cost to incur for optimal results.
In the near future, the same senator that sponsored the bill requiring the installation of seat belts into buses will also approach other mechanical and safety issues concerning these vehicles. The senator hopes to create a much safer transportation system by requiring safer windows be installed into buses as well as stronger roofing. Both of which are considered the most common causes of injuries in bus accidents after “failure to be secured” is ruled out.
As for school buses, until the states have enforced the laws that they have passed, it will be very hard to encourage other states to follow their footsteps and require safety belts in all school buses.
This new federal mandate is long overdue. With the current increase in train accidents, could similar legislation for the railway systems be far behind?
Sylvia Burley is a freelance writer who loves to travel and believes safety and diversity in traveling options is important to containing cost and will only lead to greater consumer confidence. For more information on what to do after an accident, try searching the term car accident lawyer Houston, online.