1000 Bishop Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
Via e-mail and mail
Dear Ms. Oshiro:
This responds to your e-mail enquiring about this agency's regulations concerning seat belts on city transit buses. Your understanding of our regulations is correct--seat belts are not required on large transit buses, except for the driver's seat.
As you know, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is authorized to develop motor vehicle safety standards applicable to all new motor vehicles, including school buses and transit buses. Our belt installation requirements vary according to the type of vehicle. For example, different requirements apply to buses than to passenger cars. For buses generally, our requirements only specify that a safety belt must be installed for the bus driver (note that NHTSA does not regulate belt use, as your e-mail implied; that is left to the States). They do not require safety belts for passengers on large buses (over 10,000 pounds GVWR) used for pupil transportation and other purposes.
We have not required large buses to have safety belts for passengers because we have not found sufficient justification for such a requirement, given that buses have excellent safety records. This safety record arises in part from the fact that, in crashes with other vehicles, buses tend to be substantially heavier than the other vehicle. As a result, the crash forces experienced by bus occupants tend to be less than those experienced by car occupants. Also, because of the elevated seating positions in large buses, bus occupants sit above the area typically damaged in a collision with another vehicle.
NHTSA does not prevent States and local jurisdictions that wish to order safety belts on large buses from doing so. Although large buses are not required by Federal law to have passenger safety belts, bus owners are free to purchase their buses with safety belts installed if they believe their particular circumstances warrant such installation.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions about NHTSA's safety standards, please feel free to contact Paul Atelsek of my staff at this address or by telephone at (202) 366-2992.
Acting Chief Counsel