An about-face from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration when it comes to seat belts on school buses. The agency now says every child on every school bus should have a three-points seat belt and it’s starting a nationwide campaign to see that this happens.
This is somewhat shocking because for years the NHTSA has opposed putting seat belts on school buses. But NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind is outlining a new policy that makes the agency’s new position clear.
“Let me clear up any ambiguity now,” Rosekind said in prepared remarks. “The position of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is that seat belts save lives. That is true whether in a passenger car or in a big yellow bus.”
Rosekind stopped short of talking about mandatory seat belt installation and for now, he says the agency plans to do its homework, gather safety information and talk with governors of the six states – California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, and Texas— which require some form of school bus seat belts. All of that info will help regulators figure out how to roll out their best practices across the nation.
A big reason for bus manufacturer opposition all these years is, no surprise, cost. Buses can cost between $75,000 to $85,000 and installing seat belts is expensive. It can add $7,000 to $10,000 to the price tag.
“Is this a change in position? Yes,” Rosekind said. “But it is consistent with NHTSA’s role as the guardian of safety on America’s roads. It is consistent with decades of progress in raising seat belts in the minds of the public from novelty to nuisance to ‘the car doesn’t move until I hear that click.’ Seat belts are icons of safety.”
The NHTSA estimates four children die every year in large school bus crashes. The agency believes seat belts would cut that number in half.