New seat belt legislation takes effect next week. NHTSA published a final rule amending Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 208, “Occupant Crash Protection” (49 CFR 571.208), requiring lap/shoulder seat belts for each passenger seating position in: (a) all new over-the-road buses (excluding school buses); and (b) in new buses other than over-the-road buses, with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 26,000 pounds (excluding school buses, transit buses, prison buses, and perimeter-seating buses). Additionally, the seat belt anchorages, both torso and lap, on passenger seats must be integrated into the seat structure, so as not to impede emergency egress. Starting on November 28, 2016, all new over the road buses must comply.
Data from NHTSA’s Fatal Analyses Reporting System (FARS) shows that between 2000 and 2009, there were 87 fatal crashes of over the road buses, resulting in 209 fatalities. While transportation on these large, heavy buses is generally safe, given the typical high occupancy of the buses and the operation of many of them at high speeds, when serious crashes do occur, a significant number of fatal or serious injuries can result, particularly when occupants are ejected.
The performance requirement for the lap/shoulder seat belts is the FMVSS No. 210 strength requirement, measured in a static “pull” test, where the assembly anchorages must withstand a force of 13,345 Newtons (3,000 lb) applied to the lap portion and a force of 13,345 Newtons (3,000 lb) applied simultaneously to the torso portion of the seat belt assembly. Additionally, the seat belts at each designated seating position, besides the driver position, meet the FMVSS No. 208 lockability requirements.