NHTSA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
On July 11, 2007, NHTSA held a public meeting to discuss the effectiveness of seat belts on school buses. Represented at the meeting were state and local government organizations, education officials, school bus manufacturers, safety advocates and consumer organizations. At this meeting, NHTSA administrator Nicole Nason made a public commitment to investigate options for improving the safety of bus transportation. She asked parents, students and drivers around the country to report their feedback about the usage of lap-shoulder belts currently installed on school buses.
On Nov. 21, 2007, NHTSA released a notice of proposed rulemaking, and it is currently in the process of updating the FMVSS 222 regulation for bus seat design and performance to incorporate a performance specification for lap-shoulder belts.
Since different organizations have their own ways of reporting, tracking and calculating school bus accidents and injuries, it is difficult to know how many children are actually injured in school bus accidents. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that school bus crash data is incomplete and that injuries cannot be reliably estimated.1 We do know, however, that lap-shoulder belts can make a significant impact on injury reduction.
- According to the April 2002 NHTSA Report to Congress, every day there are over 144 school bus accidents (26,000 per year) in America and more than 9,500 children are injured in school bus accidents each year.
- According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there were an estimated 51,100 school bus-related injuries treated in U.S. emergency departments from 2001 to 2003, which averages to approximately 17,000 children injured in school bus accidents each year. This is the first study to describe nonfatal school bus–related injuries to U.S. children and teenagers treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments using a national sample. This study identified a much greater annual number of school bus–related injuries to children than reported previously.
- Data from the General Estimates System2 indicates that 13,000 people are injured annually in school bus crashes. Of those injured, 46 percent (5,980) were school bus occupants, 8 percent were school bus drivers, 38 percent were occupants of other vehicles, and fewer than 0.05 percent each were pedestrians, pedal cyclists and non-motorists.
- According to 2005 data from NHTSA, an average of 21 school age children die in school transportation-related traffic crashes each year. Six of those deaths occur in school transportation vehicles. This number applies only to daily school routes and does not account for extracurricular activities that take place outside of normal school hours.
- According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), seat belts have been required on passenger cars since 1968. Forty-nine states (with the exception of New Hampshire) and the District of Columbia have enacted laws requiring the wearing of lap-shoulder belts in passenger cars and trucks.
- NHTSA research indicates that lap-shoulder belts, in every vehicle in which they have ever been introduced, reduce injuries and fatalities by 45 percent.
- NHTSA estimates that a single percentage point increase in safety belt use in the general population would result in an estimated 250 lives saved per year.
- According to a 2007 study by NHTSA, states with primary seat belt usage laws for passenger vehicles have greater compliance rates than states with secondary seat belt usage laws. (In states where primary seat belt usage laws are in place, a police officer can pull over a person for not wearing a seat belt. In states where secondary usage laws are in place, a police officer must first cite the driver for another moving violation prior to making a citation for not wearing the seat belt.)
- According to the American Trucking Association, since 1980, travel on U.S. highways has nearly doubled. The nation’s population has risen 27 percent; heavy truck registrations have increased by 61 percent; heavy truck vehicle-miles traveled have risen by 102 percent, and passenger vehicle-miles traveled have gone up by 87 percent.Yet the highway system has only been expanded by about 3 percent over the same period. This results in a potential for more deadly collisions in school buses.
Increasingly, school buses are traveling longer distances, as children use school transportation to travel to sporting events and other activities outside of their communities.
1 National Transportation Safety Board. Bus Crashworthiness Special Investigation Report. Washington, DC: National Transportation Safety Board; 1999. Publication PB99-917006 NTSB/SIR-99/04
2 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Center For Statistics and Analysis. General Estimates System. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation; 2002