Washington, D.C. – U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters has announced new federal rules that will make the country’s 474,000 school buses safer by requiring higher seatbacks, mandating lap and shoulder belts on small school buses, and setting safety standards for seatbelts on large school buses.

“Even though riding in school buses is the safest form of travel in America today, any accident is still a tragedy,” Peters said. “Taken together, these steps are designed with a single purpose, making children safer.”

The new rule requires all new school buses in the U.S. to be equipped with 24-inch-high (61 cm) seatbacks, instead of the 20-inch (51 cm) seatbacks required today. This will help prevent taller and heavier children from being thrown over the seat in a crash.

The federal government will begin allowing school districts to use federal highway safety funds to pay for the cost of installing seatbelts in buses.

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