Weeks after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released its most recent analysis of school bus accidents in 2013, the National Transportation Safety Board has issued a request. The NTSB wants the NHTSA to conduct a study that would ascertain whether there are elements of the the current requirements for school bus safety – specifically, the restraint systems – that require updating.
FMVSS No. 222 is the safety standard for school bus passenger seating and protection. The NTSB says the NHTSA is the agency in the best position to launch such a study, and that it’s critical in light of two recent fatal school bus crashes – including one in Florida.
The agency wants to know whether three-point restraints are necessary and should be mandatory on all school buses.
One of the crashes that prompted action occurred in March 2012 in Port St. Lucie. In that case, as in the other in New Jersey, it was a catastrophic, side-impact collisions of school bus crashes and large trucks.
In the Port St. Lucie case, the bus driver was later ticketed by police for failure to yield. According to authorities, he did not yield when turning across one road to get to another while driving a bus full of elementary students home. Investigators said the driver was either inattentive or simply didn’t see the sod truck that was heading straight for him. He turned left, and seconds later, the truck broadsided the truck.
Some students were wearing the seat belts mandated by the NHTSA in 2008, but the one student who died in that crash was wearing a seat belt that was loosely fitted. His head struck the ceiling of the bus and he suffered fatal injuries.
Numerous other students were seriously injured, most of those being in the middle of the bus. One student had to be placed in a medically-induced coma while he recovered.
The NTSB, in its request to the NHTSA, noted it does not have the authority to mandate or enforce regulations within the school bus industry. Although the NTSB was responsible for conducting investigations into those crashes, it doesn’t conduct studies and it isn’t in a position to set public policy or regulations.
The NHTSA did convene a meeting with student transportation and safety officials last month to determine whether action should be taken.
In June, the agency released its annual school transportation related crash report, which indicated from 2004 through 2013, there were 340,000 fatal motor vehicle crashes, and of those, 1,214 involved school transportation vehicles. Within those crashes, 1,344 people were killed, which breaks down to about 135 annually. Most of those were occupants of other vehicles or pedestrians and bicyclists, though about 8 percent of those killed were occupants of the buses – including drivers.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of school bus crashes happened between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. and again from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Of those pedestrians killed who were school-age, more than a third were between the ages of 8 and 13. More than two -thirds of the younger pedestrians who died in these accidents were struck directly by the bus itself.
If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
NHTSA Asked to Study School-Bus Seat, Seat-Belt Integrity, August 2015, By Ryan Gray, School Transportation News Online
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