Feds Now Recommending Seat Belts for School Buses

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is recommending seat belts for school buses for the first time.

School buses and other multiple-person vehicles like motorcoaches have typically been exempt from federal regulations that require seat belts in most other vehicles, although safety groups have for years pushed for the requirement to be added to buses.

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said this week that his agency is recommending three-point seat belts for school buses, which cover passengers’ shoulders and laps, but he stopped short of saying he would craft new rules to require them.

“NHTSA has not always spoken with a clear voice on the issue of seat belts on school buses. So let me clear up any ambiguity now: The position of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is that seat belts save lives,” Rosekind said in a speech to the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) on Sunday.

“That is true whether in a passenger car or in a big yellow bus. And saving lives is what we are about. So NHTSA’s policy is that every child on every school bus should have a three-point seat belt,” he continued. “NHTSA will seek to use all the tools at our disposal to help achieve that goal, and today I want to launch a nationwide effort to get us there.”

The seat-belt recommendation for school buses is a big departure for federal regulators, who have historically maintained that school buses are designed to be safer than other passenger vehicles, citing statistics that were compiled by bus industry groups like the NAPT and the American School Bus Council.