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NTSB School Bus Safety Recommendations

May 23, 2018

Yesterday the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its special investigative report findings and safety recommendations following the deadly school bus crash in Chattanooga on November 21, 2016. Six Tennessee children were killed in the roll-over crash with 26 children suffering serious to mild injuries. The bus driver received a four-year prison sentence for criminally negligent homicide as well as other charges in April 2018.

The NTSB found the lack of passenger lap/shoulder belts on the bus contributed to the severity of injuries in the crash. The Board recommended that all states enact legislation requiring new school buses be equipped with passenger lap/shoulder belts.

On Monday Governor Bill Haslam signed the state’s budget into law which includes an appropriation of a $3 million grant for Tennessee school districts to apply for reimbursement for passenger lap/shoulder belts when they purchase new large school buses. This session, the Tennessee General Assembly put on hold specific bipartisan seat belt legislation and worked with Governor Haslam to include these grant funds in the state budget. The Tennessee Department of Safety will oversee the application process and award the grants to the participating school systems.

The NTSB report found “Properly worn lap/shoulder belts provide the highest level of protection for school bus passengers in all crash scenarios, including frontal, side, and rear impacts –and rollovers.”

The NTSB made a safety recommendation to Tennessee and 41 other states to:

“Enact legislation to require that all new large school buses be equipped with passenger lap/shoulder belts for all passenger seating positions in accordance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 222.”

Four states with existing school bus seat laws were directed to amend their statutes to upgrade the seat belt requirement lap belts to lap/shoulder belts for all passengers.

Last August, three Tennessee legislators attended a school transportation safety summit at IMMI, one of the nation’s leading manufacturer of safety devices, in Westfield, Indiana, where they witnessed a school bus crash reenactment. The legislators heard from educators from around the country about their experiences with school bus lap/shoulder belts. Two NTSB investigators also attended the summit and comments from educators at the summit were included in yesterday’s report.

A link to the NTSB report’s abstract is here: https://www.ntsb.gov/news/events/Documents/2018bussir-abstract.pdf.