WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has removed from its “Most Wanted” list the call to enhance protection for school bus passengers.
NTSB had recommended that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) devise new standards to protect school bus passengers from being ejected from their seats or the bus during frontal, side or rear-impact accidents.
In closing the recommendations and taking the issue off of its Most Wanted list of transportation safety improvements, NTSB cited NHTSA’s 2008 final rule that increased school bus seat-back height and established specs for voluntarily installed seat belts on school buses. The rule also requires lap-shoulder belts in small school buses (beginning Oct. 21, 2011) but leaves them optional for large school buses.
Interestingly, in a recent report on the fatal 2006 school bus crash in Huntsville, Ala., NTSB was critical of that final rule, saying it “did not provide a uniform level of safety for all school bus occupants.” However, NTSB noted that NHTSA is currently testing methods to provide passenger protection for school bus sidewalls, sidewall components and seat frames.
Remaining on the updated Most Wanted list is a recommendation that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) prohibit CDL holders with passenger-carrying and school bus endorsements from using a cell phone while driving. NTSB said that “some progress” is being made by the Department of Transportation and FMCSA, so the designation remains yellow, which means “acceptable response, progressing slowly.”
Also still on the list is the recommendation that NHTSA enhance protection for motorcoach passengers. NTSB is calling for motorcoach window emergency exits to be redesigned for easy egress, for standards for roofs to be strengthened, and for new standards to be devised to protect passengers from being ejected. The designation was downgraded from yellow to red (which means “unacceptable response”), because of “the lack of progress on this issue,” NTSB said.