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Federal seat belt ruling

General Q & A

Post 07 Dec 2008, 20:05

Posts: 94
Location: dryden, ny
DOT 152-08
Contact: Brian Turmail, Tel.: (202) 366-4570
October 15, 2008
New Federal Rule to Make School Buses Safer, Allow Districts to Use Federal Funds to Pay for Seat Belt
Installations, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters Announces
New federal rules will make the nation’s 474,000 school buses safer by requiring higher seat backs,
mandating lap and shoulder belts on small school buses and setting safety standards for seat belts on large school
buses, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters announced today.
“Even though riding in school buses is the safest form of travel in America today, any accident is still a
tragedy,” said Secretary Peters. “Taken together, these steps are designed with a single purpose, making
children safer.”
Secretary Peters said the new rule requires all new school buses in America to be equipped with 24-inchhigh
seat backs, instead of the 20-inch-high seat backs required today. Higher seat backs will help prevent taller
and heavier children from being thrown over the seat in a crash, decreasing the chance of injury to them and the
children in front of them.
She added that all new school buses weighing less than five tons will be required to have three-point seat
belts. She noted that the lap and shoulder belts better protect children in small buses, adding that smaller school
buses are more vulnerable because they don’t absorb shock as well as larger buses.
The Secretary said the federal government also was setting new standards for seat belts on large school
buses. Standards will improve seat belt safety and help lower the cost of installing the belts. She cautioned,
however, that seat belts on larger buses can limit capacity and force more students to walk or ride in cars to
school, which is statistically more dangerous.
“The last thing we want to do is force parents to choose other, less safe ways of getting their children to
school,” she said. That is why she said the federal government also would begin allowing school districts to use
federal highway safety funds to pay for the cost of installing belts.
“No school district should have to choose between books and safety,” said Deputy Transportation
Secretary Thomas Barrett, who outlined the new school bus rules today during a visit to a Deatsville, Ala.,
elementary school with the state’s Governor, Bob Riley.
“I thank Secretary Peters and Deputy Secretary Barrett for their leadership on this important issue. These
new measures will make children on school buses safer and give states a clear picture of what they can do to
better protect students,” Gov. Riley said.
Admiral Barrett noted that a phone call from the Governor to Secretary Peters following a November 2006
bus crash in Huntsville helped prompt the new rule. “The fact that there are so few fatalities on buses every year
is little solace for a grieving parent or a saddened governor,” Barrett said.
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