The recent fatal school bus crash in New Jersey and new recommendations by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have led to an effort in Congress to require seat belts on school buses across the country.
An announcement was made regarding a new bipartisan bill that would require the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to begin the rulemaking process on new federal requirements for seat belts on school buses.
The legislation is dubbed the Secure Every Child Under the Right Equipment Standards (SECURES) Act. The proposal does not specify that the DOT rulemaking would have to be for lap-shoulder belts. Rather, it would direct the DOT to consider the added safety benefits of lap/shoulder seat belts while making a decision and it would require the DOT to include NTSB’s recommendations. The bill summary cites NTSB’s new special investigation report on school bus safety, which recommends that states mandate lap-shoulder belts for all new large school buses.
The launch of the SECURES Act legislation follows the May 17 school bus crash in Mount Olive, New Jersey, that killed a student and a teacher. The bus in that crash was reportedly equipped with lap-only belts, as required by New Jersey law.
There are only a few states that have a law in effect requiring lap-shoulder belts on school buses, but some are contingent on funding. Now instead of each state’s legislators drafting a new law, Congress is taking steps to make this a nationwide law!