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FEDERAL MANDATE FOR LAP-SHOULDER BELTS LOOKS UNLIKELY

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If you’ve been following our blogs, we have talked about the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB’s) calling for lap-shoulder belts on school buses. Recently the NTSB decided to direct that recommendation, not to the feds, but to the states.

In past crash investigations and reports, NTSB has pointed to the benefits of lap-shoulder belts for student passengers, particularly in side impacts and rollovers. The agency has even produced a video in which it shows that properly buckled passengers will stay inside the seating compartment in any type of crash.

In the May meeting, the NTSB reiterated its assertion that lap-shoulder belts provide the best protection for school bus passengers. In crash analysis, investigators found that the swerving of the bus threw passengers out of their seating compartments before the impact, and “compartmentalization was rendered ineffective,” according to the agency.  They also listed the lack of lap-shoulder belts on the bus as “contributing to the severity of crashes.”

Several lawmakers launched an effort in Congress to require seat belts on school buses nationwide. However, the bill doesn’t specify that the mandate be for lap-shoulder belts — only that the Department of Transportation “consider” the benefits and NTSB findings on lap-shoulder belts.

As state legislatures convene for their next sessions, look for lap-shoulder belts to be back on the agenda.  For now, it remains up to the states to make the call on seat belts for school buses.

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