WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to propose rulemaking early next year to require seat belts on motorcoaches.
The announcement was part of the DOT’s new motorcoach safety action plan. The plan addresses such key safety issues as driver fatigue and inattention, vehicle rollover, occupant ejections and oversight of unsafe carriers.
Crash data indicate that ejection due to a rollover crash causes the highest percentage of motorcoach passenger fatalities. The DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined that installing seat belts would be the most direct method of retaining passengers within the seating compartment and preventing ejection.
The DOT intends to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking on seat belts in the first quarter of 2010 and then develop a final rule later that year or in 2011. It was not clear in the action plan whether the requirement would be for lap belts or lap-shoulder belts.
(Pictured above is SafeGuard's lap-shoulder belt equipped PREMIER motorcoach seat.)
The DOT’s motorcoach safety action plan also proposes enhanced regulatory oversight of new and high-risk motorcoach operators and of the use of new technologies. To address driver distraction, it proposes to initiate rulemaking to ban texting and limit the use of cell phones and other devices by motorcoach drivers.
The plan also discusses requiring electronic on-board recorders and establishing performance requirements for enhanced roof strength, fire safety and emergency egress.
“These improvements will not only help reduce the number of motorcoach crashes, it will also help save lives and reduce injuries,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.
Some states allow motorcoaches to be used instead of school buses for school sports and field trips.
In 2006, a motorcoach carrying a high school soccer team from Beaumont, Texas, crashed and rolled over, killing two girls and injuring several others. That accident spurred state legislation to require lap-shoulder belts on school buses and motorcoaches used by school districts.
To view the DOT motorcoach action plan, click here.