ATLANTA — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) plans to issue a final rule on school bus safety early next year.
The rule will be the result of the agency’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) from last year that recommended changes to enhance school bus passenger crash protection.
Terrance Schiavone, southeastern regional administrator for NHTSA, gave an update on the rulemaking effort at the Southeastern States Pupil Transportation Conference in Atlanta last week.
The key proposals of the NPRM are to require lap-shoulder belts on small school buses, provide guidance for voluntary installation of lap-shoulder belts on large buses, and raise the minimum seat back height from 20 to 24 inches on all new school buses.
Schiavone said that the NPRM drew more than 120 comments from the general public, school transportation providers, bus and seat belt manufacturers, industry associations and other groups.
Among those who commented from the general public, 75 percent favored installation of seat belts on school buses. School transportation providers and manufacturers generally supported the NPRM’s proposal to develop voluntary standards for lap-shoulder belts on large school buses.
Schiavone said that NHTSA is currently testing new lap-shoulder-belt-equipped school bus seats made by SafeGuard and M2K. The testing is scheduled to be completed this fall.
After the crash tests and NPRM comment analysis have been completed, the final rule will be issued. Schiavone said that NHTSA expects to issue the final rule in winter 2009.