WASHINGTON, D.C. --- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Monday, May 18, told Congress that the agency plans to begin requiring safety belts on commercial buses, the Detroit News reported. 

The issue of safety belts on buses has drawn considerable attention in recent years because of a number of high-profile fatal commercial bus accidents. Those include a 2007 accident that left seven people dead when a bus carrying the Bluffton (Ohio) University baseball team rolled over. The National Transportation Safety Board later concluded that confusing highway signs and driver error contributed to the accident. Investigators said the bus driver, who also died in the crash, mistook an exit ramp for a regular highway lane. 

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has made bus safety a top priority, and he will meet with NTSB later this week to discuss the issue, said Kathleen Higgins, an NTSB member. 

Ron Medford, the acting top official at NHTSA, told the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection that the agency also plans to propose mandatory safety belts on motor coaches this year and finalize the requirement after a period of public comment, the Detroit News reported. 

Since 1998, the NTSB has investigated 33 motor coach accidents involving the ejection of 255 passengers. 

Congress is considering reauthorization of the four-year surface transportation bill. This legislation typically includes major auto safety requirements.