NHTSA switches gears on school bus seat belt policy

Posted at 2:46 PM, Nov 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-09 20:43:53-05

Norfolk, Va. - The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration appears to be switching gears on their stance on whether or not school buses should have seat belts.

A major shift in policy was announced by NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind on Sunday during a speech at the National Association for Pupil Transportation summit in Richmond.

"The position of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is that seat belts save lives," Rosekind said. "That is true whether in a passenger car or in a big yellow bus. And saving lives is what we are about. So NHTSA's policy is that every child on every school bus should have a three-point seat belt."

Until now, the long standing policy has been that seat belts aren't necessary on buses because of the way they are designed. Buses are heavy and absorb crash impacts differently than regular passenger vehicles.

According to the NHTSA's website, "Through compartmentalization, occupant crash protection is provided by a protective envelope consisting of strong, closely-spaced seats that have energy-absorbing seat backs."

For now, seat belts aren't required on buses in Virginia. Only 6 states in the United States require them -- Texas, Florida, Louisiana, New York and New Jersey.