WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) denied a petition for rulemaking from the Center for Auto Safety and 21 others asking the agency to mandate the installation of three-point seat belts for all seating positions on all school buses.

In the Aug. 25 edition of the Federal Register, NHTSA said that it is denying the petition because it has “not found a safety problem supporting a federal requirement for lap-shoulder belts on large school buses, which are already very safe.”

NHTSA went on to say that the decision to install seat belts on school buses should be left to state and local jurisdictions, which can weigh the need for, benefits and consequences of installing belts on large school buses and best decide whether their particular pupil transportation programs merit installation of the devices.

The agency also said that for large school buses, it has been mindful that a requirement for seat belts could affect funding for school transportation. A federal requirement for seat belts on large school buses will increase the cost to purchase and operate the vehicles, according to NHTSA. This could, in turn, reduce the availability of school bus service overall, and reduce school bus ridership.

NHTSA most recently discussed the issue of requiring seat belts on large school buses in a rulemaking proceeding that was completed last year. In that rulemaking, the agency presented up-to-date information and discussed the reasoning behind its decision not to propose to require seat belts in large school buses.

The NPRM and final rule preambles presented data and findings from several studies, including those from the National Transportation Safety Board and the National Academy of Sciences.

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