July 12, 2007

U.S. agency holds public forum on school bus seatbelts

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters has called on state and local governments, education officials, school bus manufacturers, safety advocates and consumer organizations to help the federal government assess the effectiveness of seatbelts on school buses.

Current federal standards for large school buses provide protection by “compartmentalization”, which creates a protection system like eggs in a carton and does not require seatbelts. The system combines flexible, energy-absorbent high seat backs and narrow spacing between each row to create a compartment that confines the occupant during a crash.

“The statistics tell us that school buses are the safest form of transportation on our highways,” Peters says. “The question we should ask is how we can make them even safer. We owe it to our children to look at this issue with fresh eyes. With that in mind, it’s time to look at seatbelts on buses.”

According to research by the national Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there is an average of 21 deaths each year involving school-aged children with school buses. Of those killed, six are passengers inside the bus, and 15 involve pedestrians around the bus. Nearly half a million school buses transport over 25 million students each year.

“Even though the numbers aren’t large, we still have fatalities and injuries on school buses each year,” says NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason. “If there are sensible and practicable ways to more safely transport our children to school, it is our responsibility to investigate and make them a reality.”

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