Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced a final rule requiring lap and shoulder seat belts for each passenger and driver seat on new motorcoaches and other large buses. The final rule, which amends Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208, applies to new over-the-road buses and other types of buses with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 11,793 kilograms (26,000 pounds), except transit buses and school buses. Beginning in November 2016, newly manufactured buses will be required to be equipped with shoulder and lap belts for each driver and passenger seat.
Motorcoaches complete approximately 750 million passenger trips each year. Currently, the motorcoach industry is made up of approximately 4,000 companies operating over 35,000 vehicles. According to NHTSA data, on average, 21 motorcoach and large bus occupants are killed and 7,934 are injured annually in motor vehicle crashes. The new rule is aimed at enhancing the safety of these vehicles by significantly reducing the risk of fatalities and serious injuries in frontal crashes and the risk of occupant ejection in rollovers. According to NHTSA officials, the new rule requiring seat belts could reduce fatalities by nearly 44 percent and reduce the number of moderate to severe injuries by up to 45 percent.
The new rule was issued as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation Motorcoach Safety Action Plan. According to NHTSA officials, several companies have already begun voluntarily purchasing buses that are equipped with seat belts. NHTSA encourages the industry to adopt the lap and shoulder seat belts prior to the mandatory deadline.