WASHINGTON, D.C. — Representatives from the six states that have passed school bus seat belt legislation will share their experiences with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) officials in a meeting here next month.
NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind sent letters to the governors of those six states in December, asking each to nominate one representative from their state government and one representative from a local school district to take part in the meeting.
When he addressed pupil transportation officials in Richmond, Virginia, in November, Rosekind said that NHTSA’s new position is that “every child on every school bus should have a three-point seat belt.” He noted that the agency would do more research on the issue, including soliciting input from the states that have school bus seat belt regulations.
“Seat belts save lives, whether in passenger cars or in big yellow buses,” Rosekind wrote in his letters to the six governors. “We hope you can help us learn from your experience and contribute to a nationwide movement to ensure that every child on every school bus has a three-point seat belt.”
California is currently the only state with an effective requirement for three-point belts on school buses. Three other states require lap belts on school buses: Florida, New Jersey and New York.
Texas and Louisiana have passed school bus seat belt bills, but both were contingent on funding being allocated to pay for the restraints. Since those two states’ mandates remain unfunded, they have not been enforced.
The meeting with the six states’ representatives was originally slated for Jan. 27, but it has been rescheduled for March 24, a NHTSA spokesman confirmed to SBF. Also, the agency extended invitations to the meeting to the industry's three key national groups: the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT), the National School Transportation Association (NSTA) and the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS).
NAPT and NSTA wrote a joint letter to Rosekind in December in which they expressed their concerns about his agency’s new stance on school bus seat belts, and they asked to be included in NHTSA’s meeting with the six states.
By contrast, NASDPTS has expressed its support for NHTSA’s position on three-point seat belts for school buses.