Ms. Kay Howeth
St. Michaels Housing Authority
P. O. Box 296
St. Michaels, MD 21663
Dear Ms. Howeth:
This responds to your October 7, 1997, request for an opinion whether St. Michaels Housing Authority must provide school bus transportation for your children in a drug awareness program. The answer to your question is determined by Maryland State law.
Our statute at 49 U.S.C. 30112(a) requires any person selling or leasing a new vehicle to sell or lease a vehicle that meets all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards. Accordingly, persons selling or leasing a new "school bus" must sell or lease a vehicle that meets the safety standards applicable to school buses. Under 49 U.S.C. 30101, et seq., a "school bus" is any vehicle that is designed for carrying 11 or more persons and which is likely to be "used significantly" to transport "preprimary, primary, and secondary" students to or from school or related events. 49 U.S.C. 30125.
Since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does not consider a drug awareness program to be a "school," we would not require that a dealership selling a new vehicle to your Housing Authority sell a school bus. However, each State has authority to regulate the use of vehicles within the State, and Maryland law may specify the type of vehicle your Housing Authority must use to transport the children. You may wish to contact the Maryland State department of motor vehicles to learn whether there are any State requirements applicable to vehicles used to transport children in drug awareness programs.
For your information, I am also enclosing a copy of NHTSA's publication, "Frequently Asked Questions About Federal School Bus Safety Requirements."
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at this address or by telephone at (202) 366-2992.
Acting Chief Counsel