Forty-five years after the National Transportation Board called for seat belt reform on commercial buses, safety advocates are still waiting for the government to put some sort of plan into action. One of the first times the NTSB spoke out publicly about the lack of seat belts on buses was after nineteen people were killed in a bus crash on a California highway caused by a drunken driver. Since that time, the NTSB has repeatedly called for seat belts or some other similar means to keep passengers in their seats during bus crashes. Around half of all bus fatalities are caused by rollover accidents, and around seventy percent of the individuals who die in rollover crashes were thrown from the bus.
The NTSB has also repeatedly recommended tougher windows that won't pop out upon impact and roofs that can withstand crushing. Even though all of these recommendations have existed for nearly a half century, no requirements have been put in place. Since the NTSB made its initial recommendations forty-five years ago, hundreds of bus passengers have been killed and many more injured. One woman wrote to regulators and talked of her father's tragic experience as a bus passenger. She said, "In 1998, my father was launched like a missile (out) a bus window and landed on his head on pavement. He is now permanently brain damaged and cannot even take care of himself." She went on to comment on the issue of bus safety and said, "This issue has been around for decades and it needs to change, NOW, before more people die or are severely injured like my father."
In 2009, the NTSB spoke out and said government inaction was partly to blame for the severe injuries sustained by passengers in a rollover crash in Utah, which ultimately killed nine and injured forty-three. The Transportation Secretary at that time, Ray LaHood, promised action to improve bus safety. That action still had not occurred as of last year, so Congress wrapped bus safety improvements into a larger transportation bill, which was signed into law. Regulations that would require seat belts on new buses are still under review by the White House. Other regulations dealing with bus windows and roofs are due by next September, but safety advocates doubt that the government will meet this deadline. According to the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety organization, twenty-three people have been killed and three-hundred-twenty-nine injured in bus crashes so far this year. This number may continue to grow until serious steps are taken to increase bus safety.
Seat belts on commercial buses delayed 45 years, www.palmbeachpost.com November 12, 2013
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