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Wednesday, November 28, 2007
New Rules Proposed for School Buses
Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters recently announced a new federal proposal to make school buses safer by requiring higher seat backs and setting new seat belt standards for the 474,000 school buses in the United States. She also put her seat belt on and rode with children in a school bus to Morrisville Elementary School near Raleigh, North Carolina.
Secretary Peters said, "Our proposed rule would make children safer, put parents at ease and give communities a clearer picture of how to protect students. It's never too late to learn, especially when it comes to protecting our children."
All new school buses would be equipped with 24-inch seat backs, higher than the current 20 inches, within one year after the rule goes into effect. Secretary Peters said this increase would better protect child passengers by helping keep older kids and adults from being hurled over seats in a crash, hurting themselves and others.
Administrator Nicole Nason of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said, "Even the smallest changes can make a big difference. The higher seat backs will help provide children with even greater protection in the event of a crash."
Under the new proposal, all new small buses, which are more prone to roll-over than full-size buses, will be equipped with three-point belts within three years of the new rule taking effect, taking the place of the current lap-belts-only requirement.
For the first time, concerning large buses, the proposed rule would provide federal standards for seat belts for school districts that make the decision to add them. The federal government would permit school districts to use federal highway safety funds to cover the additional cost of equipping buses with seat belts to encourage greater use, the Secretary said.
The Wake County school is one of the first in the country to equip some of its new buses with seat belts. Secretary Peters rode on a bus with three-point seat belts to the school, then spoke with students in a second grade classroom about how to be safe while riding the bus.
The proposed new rule is based, in part, on knowledge collected during a public meeting on school bus safety that NHTSA held in July. At that meeting, Secretary Peters confronted state and local government policymakers, school bus manufacturers, pupil transportation associations and consumer groups to help create new ways to make school buses even safer.
Secretary Peters observed that school buses already are the safest form of motor vehicle transportation, with a death rate that is nearly six times lower than passenger vehicles. On average, less than eight passengers die in school bus crashes every years, even though 474,000 school buses carry 25.1 million children more than 4.8 billion miles each year.
Public comments on the new proposed regulations will be accepted for 60 days. To read the proposal, go to: www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
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