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Proposed Federal Regulation Could Help Passengers Survive a Bus Crash

Buses are a popular way to travel in California, particularly for commuters, students, community groups, and tourists. However, their sheer size and lack of safety measures can put passengers at risk for serious injury or even death. Earlier this year, a California bus accident left ten people dead, including five high school students.

To help protect passengers in the event of a bus crash, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently proposed a new regulation aimed to improve the structural design of large buses. The new motor vehicle safety standard would specifically address the risk to passengers during a rollover crash by making sure that the space around them remains sufficiently intact and the emergency exits remain operable.

According to the NHTSA, new motorcoach and large buses would specifically be required to satisfy new performance standards, which would involve a dynamic test in which the bus is tipped over from a raised platform onto a hard level surface. The proposed bus safety standard would:

  • Require space around occupant seating positions to be maintained to afford occupants a survivable space in a crash;
  • Require the seats, overhead luggage racks, and window glazing to remain attached to their mountings during and after the test; and
  • Require emergency exits to remain closed during the rollover test and operable after the test.

“Approximately 700 million trips are taken on commercial buses each year. Raising the standard for a motorcoach’s durability, in the event of a crash, is critical to saving the lives of the passengers inside,” said Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne Ferro. “In addition to taking critical steps to improve the structural design of buses, we are committed to further increasing motorcoach safety through stricter oversight, in-depth investigations into high-risk companies, and by ensuring that drivers are properly licensed and medically fit for the job.”

If approved, the new standards would take effect in three years.