November 20, 2007

U.S. Transportation Secretary proposes new school bus safety requirements

Raleigh, North Carolina – U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters has announced a new federal proposal to make school buses safer by requiring higher seat backs and setting new seatbelt standards for the country’s 474,000 school buses.

“Our proposed rule would make children safer, put parents at ease and give communities a clearer picture of how to protect students,” Peters said. “It’s never too late to learn, especially when it comes to protecting our children.”

Beginning one year after the rule goes into effect, all new school buses will be equipped with 24-inch (609 mm) seat backs. This increase, up from the current 20 inches (508 cm) will keep older children and adults from being thrown over the seats in a crash.

The proposal also requires that all new small buses, which are more prone to rollover than full-size buses, be equipped with three-point belts within three years of the new rule taking effect, replacing the current requirement of lap belts only.

For large buses, the proposed rule will provide federal standards for seatbelts for school districts that make the decision to add them. Peters said the federal government would allow school districts to use federal highway safety funds to cover the additional cost of equipping buses with seatbelts to encourage greater use.

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