Should Seat Belts Be Required On The Bus?

Riding the bus is a relatively safe way to get from point A to B, but a new proposal under consideration by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would seek to make it even safer by requiring new motorcoaches — as opposed to municipal or school buses — to provide seat belts for all passengers on board.

Over the last decade, fatalities in motorcoaches average 2.5 per 100 million passengers. NHTSA believes they can cut the number of deaths and injuries resulting from motorcoach rollovers by installing the lap and shoulder belts in all seats, but only on new coaches.

Cost is one of the main reasons for not requiring the nearly 30,000 motorcoaches to be retrofitted for seat belts. NHTSA estimates it could cost upwards of $34,000/bus to make the required seating and structural changes for installing the safety belts. Meanwhile, it would only add around $12,900/bus to the cost of motorcoaches that haven’t rolled off the assembly line.

NHTSA is currently seeking public comment on the proposal until October 18, 2010 on

If the proposed regulation is enacted, it will still take three years to take effect.

Click here to download the entire PDF from NHTSA

NHTSA announces proposal to require seatbelts on motorcoaches [Consumer Reports]


Edit Your Comment

  1. AllanG54 says:

    If they’re required in taxis they should be required on buses. Of course, getting people to actually use them is another story. Because as we all know from flying, eventually you’re free to move around the cabin.

    • Salty Johnson says:

      Taxis are very different from buses. The reason you currently don’t need seatbelts in buses is that they are fundamentally very safe. A bus won’t turn into a pancake because a hummer t-bones it. A bus won’t roll over from taking a turn too fast because buses don’t go very fast. There are very few bus-related accidents in the US, and even fewer that cause injury to the bus occupants.

  2. Torgonius wants an edit button says:

    Perhaps the nanny state can just get us all our own personal padded hamster balls from cradle to grave instead.

    • visual77 says:

      Imagine this scenario:

      You and I are riding in a bus together. I have my seatbelt on and you don’t. The bus gets in a rollover and you go flying through the cabin, while I stay fastened to my seat. You kick me in the face while flying, badly injuring me in what otherwise would’ve been an injury free accident for me. You survive, but are badly injured. After a stint in the hospital, I hunt you down and kill you.

      • Doubts42 says:

        Imagine this much more likely scenario. You and i are both on a bus, you are wearing your seat belt, and i am not. There is an accident. I am thrown about the cabin and get some cuts, scrapes and a few cracked ribs. you are left, less hurt than me but trapped in your seat hanging upside down in a burning bus. i escape and live, later able to console your girlfriend about her recent loss.

        • herbie says:


        • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

          “I am thrown about the cabin and get some cuts, scrapes and a few cracked ribs.”

          You have obviously never been in or seen a highway-speed motor vehicle incident. As my first EMT instructor used to say, I have never unbuckled a dead body.

          • Doubts42 says:

            actually i have. And in the car i was in I was very grateful to have been wearing my seatbelt. In the much more open area of a bus the story could well be different.
            but mostly i had a problem with visuals attitude in posting that he would hunt down and kill someone whose crime was to be tossed around in an accident that was in no way that person’s fault.

            • spamtasticus says:

              I like the one where he consoles his girlfriend after his death. woops… I cant believe I said that on a public forum. Along with the new seatbelt law we should pass an insensitive theoretical statement about a fictitious individual on a public forum law.

            • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

              Yes, the vigilante justice hyperbole deserved a bit of hyperbole in return, I agree.

              But to your other point, the more room you have to get tossed around, the more likely you are to get injured if you are unrestrained.

        • Dory says:

          If by “much more likely”, you mean “extremely unlikely”, then you’re quite correct–and have a pretty messed-up definition of the words “much”, “more” and “likely”.

      • Rocket80 says:

        If you can prove that his reckless negligence caused you harm, then you can take him to court and see if you can make a case. The government shouldn’t force these rules on us, but as individuals we are still responsible for the consequences of our actions.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      If they could go 80mph and drive themselves, I owuld invest.

    • Tim says:

      The proposed rule doesn’t require riders to use seatbelts, it only would require them to be installed.

    • zandar says:

      I hope you are aware just how loaded the phrase “nanny state” is. I see that and automatically assume, whether or accurate or not, the user is a reactionary crank.

  3. Trevor says:

    2.5 people out of 100 million?! Um, I’d say it’s pretty safe already. Granted every life is valuable beyond comprehension, but this seems like a lot of money for something that’s NOT a problem.

  4. dangermike says:

    yes. absolutely. The vast majority of bus collisions are with standard sized automobiles. There is little to no concern in the vast majority of these types of collision that any significant injuries will occur on the bus, and reasonably, these situations are extremely survivable with no belt. However, it is not at all uncommon for buses to tangle big rigs, other buses, or the environment in such a way that the abrupt forces that require a belt to escape serious and even mortal injury, and it should be a huge liability to the bus makers and whenever anyone is hurt in a bus crash where belts can make a difference but are not available.

  5. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Considering my very limited experience with bus riding around town, I’m going to say maybe – but probably no.

  6. LexLuber says:

    Megabus already has them. I actually use it and get some weirdo looks every now and again, but better safe than sorry. *Kanye shrug*

  7. hosehead says:

    I would use them if available.

    If I was the risk manager for a bus company, I would require them and post signs that they should be used.

  8. Cameraman says:

    Wait, they want to require bus manufacturers to add thirteen thousand dollars to the sticker price of a bus to prevent the deaths of two and a half out of every hundred thousand passengers? At what point does it stop making sense to spend money to prevent a death? Five grand a person? One hundred grand? A billion dollars?

    • sir_eccles says:

      Two words for you: Ford Pinto

      They did the very same calculation on a person’s life.

    • Rachacha says:

      The Government has determined that the cost of an average human life is about $6.9 million dollars. If you can save 2.5 lives per 100 million passengers you are saving close to $17.3 million/100million passengers. Greyhound claims to transport 25 million passengers per year, so lets assume that 100 million passengers is 1 years worth of travel for all carriers (this would include many smaller local bus companies)

      17,300,000/12,900 = 1341 new busses per year as the break even point, so as long as fewer than 1341 new busses are put on the road every year, it will save lives and money.

      • Rachacha says:

        I need to revise my calculations According to the article “The motorcoach industry, which transports 750 million passengers a year…”

        $6.9 million cost of human life
        2.5/100 million could be saved by a seat belt on a bus
        750M/100M = 7.5 x 2.5 = 18.75 lives per year
        $6.9M x 18.75 = $129,375,000 “life savings” per year
        Average cost of $12,900/bus = 10,029 busses per year, so unless bus providers are placing more than 10,029 NEW busses per year on the road every year, the cost of installing the belts would be less than the cost of the lives lost.

  9. pantheonoutcast says:

    2.5 people per 100 million? More people a year die by drowning in their own bathtubs. Not worth the cost.

    • tdogg241 says:

      That number can’t be right. It has to be 2.5 out of every 100 thousand. Otherwise, this really doesn’t make any sense.

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        From the article:

        “Motorcoaches are a popular and relatively safe mode of transportation. They carry 750 million passengers each year and account for an average of 19 annual occupant deaths.”

        That’s a statistically insignificant amount of people.

      • wickedr says:

        Nope, that seems right.

        From an article on the same issue,
        “The motorcoach industry, which transports 750 million passengers a year…”


        “Between 1999 and 2008, there were 54 fatal motorcoach crashes resulting in 186 fatalities, most of them passengers ejected from buses, according to NHTSA. “

        So, yes, most of the deaths of motorcoach passengers in the past 10 years could be seatbelt prevented, but that’s 186 deaths per 7 and 1/2 BILLION passengers.


    • your new nemesis says:

      Are you suggesting seatbelts in bathtubs?

  10. MDSasquatch says:

    I ride the bus daily to and from work in the DC area; most of the newer buses are already equipped with seat belts. In the three years I have been taking the bus, I have only seen one person use them. Adding the seat belts is one thing, getting anyone to use them is another.

    Most of the time the only real danger is from boredom in slow moving DC traffic; my only excitement was about a year ago when our bus caught fire on 95.

    • evnmorlo says:

      If they pass a law requiring seat-belts to be installed they can pass a law requiring seat-belts to be used.

  11. Tim says:

    I think it’d be easier to make a judgment call if we knew how much this would add to the average bus ticket price. If no one’s requiring that we wear them, only that they exist, then that’s the only problem for consumers.

    Although if Megabus can do it and still keep prices down, I’m willing to bet that other companies can too.

  12. cash_da_pibble says:

    I actually feel insecure on buses BECAUSE of the lack of a seat belt.
    Perhaps not a full-restraint system, but a lap belt for sure- like airplanes.

  13. COBBCITY says:

    Sit on a bus with no seat belt when he rolls on it’s side or completely over and then let us know if you think a seat belt would have prevented some of your injuries as you are tossed around inside. I betcha the answer is yes.

  14. Trollez says:

    If they made them on a going forward basis, I would consider wearing them in the right kind of bus. Greyhound, probably, Boston MBTA Bus, forget it. If they had them going forward I think it would reduce the user price if they don’t upgrade older buses and pass the cost onto the consumer.

  15. rpm773 says:

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I really don’t want anything restraining me when the
    Fung Wah starts to break apart. It’s time to go!

  16. windycitygirl68 says:

    My son rides the bus to school. Our district packs 3 to a seat, so half the kids sit sideways. In addition to seat belts, there ought to be a lawful maximum on the bus and make districts adhere to it. I’ve seen “maximum occupant” seats on school buses but that must just be a manufacturer suggestion, and the districts just laugh at it.

    • Kitamura says:

      If it’s a yellow bus, from what I understand, they are supposed to fit 3 to a seat for elementary school students.

      • carlogesualdo says:

        That is, indeed, the assumption. 3 students per regular seat. A 72-passenger bus is standard, but in reality, it only holds 48 students.

  17. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    Far more important than seat belts would be enforcement of current standards. For instance, one company was audited by the highway patrol recently, 10 of their 12 buses failed inspection and most their drivers were not licensed to drive a bus. Every time one of these fly-by-night casino coaches drives a busload of geriatric patients off a cliff the highway patrol audits.

  18. TasteyCat says:

    You have a better chance of getting the bubonic plague than dying in a bus crash. Let’s find a cure for that first.

  19. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I wonder if there would be more injuries because the kids might hit each other with the buckle end of the seat belt? When I rode the school bus, back in the stone age, I’m quite sure that would have been a daily occurrence.

  20. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    Kevin Smith says no, since he now travels by bus everywhere since he the whole “too fat to fly” thing. He doesn’t want to be “too fat to ride”!

  21. shepd says:

    I’m not aware of any new motorcoaches that *don’t* have seatbelts. All the new ones I’ve ridden in the past couple of years had them. Not that people used them, but they had them.

    Is it really necessary to bother passing this law when virtually everyone is already doing it? The amount of non-compliance has got to be so low it wouldn’t have any serious effect on the numbers.

  22. packcamera says:

    I think it is reasonable to have them installed on school buses, but municipal buses and motor coaches really don’t need them.

  23. Carlee says:

    They could install seat belts on buses, and then eventually pass a law requiring passengers to wear said seat belts. But who is going to enforce the law? Bus drivers (in our metro area, at least) barely bat an eye when people eat and drink (which is prohibited on buses and trains) – you think they are going to have the time to make sure each person is wearing a seat belt?

    Install them if you want but I probably wouldn’t use it.

  24. outlulz says:

    My mother was in a bus accident and was thrown from her seat, along with everyone else. Her back injuries will be with her for the rest of her life. So yeah, I’d like to see lap belts on buses for those that wish to use them.

  25. TehLlama says:

    Seat belt laws across the board should be rescinded.
    While not putting kids in them could be considered parental negligence, there’s no reason a state entity should care if I’m idiotically endangering my own life in my own private automobile.

    • TehLlama says:

      I don’t see why buses are exempted from being required to have seat belts – use should be an individual decision (but very highly recommended)

    • dush says:

      If everyone had the cash to fully pay for any unforseen damage, medical, rescue or emergency expenses incurred from not wearing your seatbelt and getting in a crash then they probably wouldn’t care.

  26. BytheSea says:

    Yes, please strap the tourists into their rolling dork-tanks.

  27. Alereon says:

    I’d suggest taking a look at National Transportation Safety Board accident reports for Highway transportation, available on the NTSB website:

    In accidents where a bus departs a roadway at highway speeds (almost always because the driver fell asleep at the wheel), they usually roll over and a significant number of passengers are ejected through the large side windows, often with fatal results. These deaths and serious injuries are needless tragedies that can be avoided by installing seatbelts, which are relatively inexpensive if they’re included when the bus is built.

  28. bben says:

    Lets start with school busses. My grandson was in a school bus that laid over on its side on the interstate highway in Charlotte NC. luckily no one was killed. He was tossed 6 rows and knocked unconscious. He had a broken nose and bruises. The kid beside him had a broken arm. The adult adviser on the bus also had a broken bone and multiple bruises. These three were the worst injuries. Nearly every kid had multiple bruises and cuts. None of them would have been hurt if they had been wearing seat belts.

    If you get caught with kids not buckled up in your car, you get a ticket. The school system gets a free pass.

  29. goldgecko4 says:

    Ugh, no thank you. I understand the idea that it’s really not a big deal in the long run, but motor coach buses are already miserable, I don’t want to be strapped in for three hours at a time, too. I commute between MI and Chicago a lot, and when I can, I always take the train. The Greyhound that leaves from MI is always late, always packed, and if you can’t get adults to behave on a bus, how are you going to deal with kids strapped in for that long? The train on the other hand, is quiet, spacious, and a great place to take a nap. Also, the Amtrak has been cheaper for some reason lately. Odd.

  30. Zydia says:

    they should get input from an actuary about this, if they haven’t already.

  31. Sparkstalker says:

    How about a compromise – city buses, I’d say no. But for buses that travel interstate speeds, I’d say yes.