WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a final rule requiring lap-shoulder seat belts for each passenger and driver seat on new motorcoaches and other large buses. The rule does not apply to school buses.

Officials said the new rule enhances the safety of these vehicles by significantly reducing the risk of fatalities and serious injuries in frontal crashes and the risk of occupant ejection in rollovers.

"Safety is our highest priority, and we are committed to reducing the number of deaths and injuries on our roadways," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. "Today's rule is a significant step forward in our efforts to improve motorcoach safety."

On average, 21 motorcoach and large bus occupants are killed and 7,934 are injured annually in motor vehicle crashes, according to NHTSA data. Requiring seat belts could reduce fatalities by up to 44% and reduce the number of moderate to severe injuries by up to 45%, according to the agency.

"While travel on motorcoaches is overall a safe form of transportation, when accidents do occur, there is the potential for a greater number of deaths and serious injuries due to the number of occupants and high speeds at which the vehicles are traveling," NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said. "Adding seat belts to motorcoaches increases safety for all passengers and drivers, especially in the event of a rollover crash."

"Buckling up is the most effective way to prevent deaths and injuries in all vehicular crashes, including motorcoaches," Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne S. Ferro said. "Requiring seat belts in new models is another strong step we are taking to reach an even higher level of safety for bus passengers."

The final rule, which amends Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208, applies to new over-the-road buses and to other types of new buses with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 26,000 pounds, except transit buses and school buses.

The rule fulfills a mandate from the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act. Beginning in November 2016, newly manufactured motorcoaches will be required to be equipped with lap-shoulder belts for each driver and passenger seat.

Several companies have already begun voluntarily purchasing buses that include seat belts, and officials said the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will continue encouraging the adoption of lap-shoulder seat belts prior to the mandatory deadline.

In addition, the U.S. DOT will continue moving forward with other initiatives to improve motorcoach safety as outlined in the Motorcoach Safety Action Plan.

• Read the final rule here.
• Read the Motorcoach Safety Action Plan here.