New school buses should have lap and shoulder safety belts, NTSB says

May 25, 2018
For the first time, the National Transportation Safety Board is recommending that all new school buses be equipped with lap and shoulder seat belts.

For the first time, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)  is recommending that all new school buses be equipped with lap and shoulder seat belts.

ABC News reports that the safety board's recommendations were included in findings from an investigation prompted by two deadly 2016 crashes.

"I feel like we've always tiptoed around this issue of seat belt usage and lap [and] shoulder belts in school buses," says NTSB Board Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt. "The last recommendation we made on this was in 2013 coming out of a crash in Chesterfield, New Jersey, that occurred in February of 2012. And it was a recommendation which is sort of weak in my opinion."

The NTSB recommendation states that 42 states without a requirement should "enact legislation to require that all new large school buses be equipped with passenger lap/shoulder belts for all passenger seating positions."

It also recommended four other states upgrade their requirements from lap-only belts to lap and shoulder belts.

The school bus industry has long debated whether seat belts on school buses should be mandatory.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTHSA) stance on seat belts has been that they are not absolutely necessary in large school buses, although they are required for small school buses because of the size and the weight of those vehicles.

The recommended changes stem from an investigation of 2016 school bus crashes in Baltimore, Md., and Chattanooga, Tenn.

The two crashes collectively killed 12 and injured 37, prompting the NTSB investigation.

From 2007 to 2016, there were 1,282 deaths of all ages and 281 deaths of school-age children from school transportation-related crashes, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. 

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