New federal rules will make the nations 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 this past October.
Secretary Peters said the new rule requires all new school buses to be equipped with 24-inch-high 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.
In addition, all new school buses weighing less than five tons will be required to have three-point seat belts. 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. Secretary Peters 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.
SUMMARY: This final rule upgrades the school bus passenger crash protection requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 222. This final rule requires new school buses of 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds) or less gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) (small school buses) to have lap/shoulder belts in lieu of the lap belts currently required. This final rule also sets performance standards for seat belts voluntarily installed on school buses with a GVWR greater than 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds) (large school buses).
Each State or local jurisdiction may decide whether to install seat belts on these large school buses. Other changes to school bus safety requirements include raising the height of seat backs from 508 mm (20 inches) to 610 mm (24 inches) on all new school buses and requiring a self-latching mechanism on seat bottom cushions that are designed to flip up or be removable without tools.
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