Transportation Sec. Peters Proposes New Safety Rules for School Buses
RALEIGH, N.C. --- U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters on Monday announced a new federal proposal to require higher seat backs and set new seat belt standards for the nation's 474,000 school buses."Our proposed rule would make children safer, put parents at ease and give communities a clearer picture of how to protect students," Peters said during an appearance in Raleigh. Beginning one year after the rule goes into effect, all new school buses would be equipped with 24-inch seat backs. This increase, up from the current 20 inches, will help keep older kids and adults from being thrown over seats in a crash, hurting themselves and others, Peters said. "Even the smallest changes can make a big difference," said Nicole Nason, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). "The higher seat backs will help provide children with even greater protection in the event of a crash."The proposal also requires all new small buses, which are more prone to roll-over than full-size buses, to be equipped with three-point belts within three years of the new rule taking effect, replacing the current lap-belts-only requirement, Peters said. For large buses, the proposed rule for the first time would provide federal standards for seat belts for school districts that make the decision to add them. Peters said the federal government would allow school districts to use federal highway safety funds to cover the additional cost of equipping buses with seat belts to encourage greater use.The proposed new rule is based, in part, on information gathered during a public meeting on school bus safety that NHTSA held in July. At that meeting, Peters challenged state and local government policymakers, school bus manufacturers, pupil transportation associations and consumer groups to help develop new ways to make school buses safer.