In response to two school bus crash investigations that occurred in 2016 – one in Baltimore, Md., and one in Chattanooga, Tenn. – and in the wake of a recent fatal school bus crash in New Jersey, the National Transportation Safety Board is recommending that all new large school buses be equipped with lap/shoulder seat belts and that the vehicles themselves be fitted with two types of safety systems.
The agency's nine pages of recommendations called upon the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to "require all new school buses to be equipped with collision avoidance systems and automatic emergency braking technologies."
Seven school bus manufacturers – Blue Bird Corp., Collins Industries, IC Bus, Starcraft Bus, Thomas Built Buses, Trans Tech, and Van–Con – are also requested to install collision avoidance systems with automatic emergency braking as standard equipment on all newly manufactured school buses.
NTSB also called on 42 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to "enact legislation to require that all new large school buses be equipped with passenger lap/shoulder belts for all passenger seating positions in accordance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 222."
And while those are all "recommendations," the odds are high they will be implemented in one form or another. According to Mark Rosenker, NTSB's chairman from 2005 to 2009, some 82 percent of the 14,000 recommendations issued by the agency over its history have resulted in regulatory change – including passage of laws by Congress.
NTSB did stress in this current report that "school bus travel is one of the safest forms of transportation in the U.S.," with nearly 600,000 buses ferrying more than 25 million students to and from school and school-related activities every day. "Children are safer traveling in school buses than in any other vehicle, the agency said.
Yet NTSB also noted in its report that improved oversight of school bus drivers and enhancements to school bus design – such as installation of passenger lap/shoulder belts, electronic stability control, and automatic emergency braking – could "prevent or mitigate crash outcomes" that result in injuries and fatalities.
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