Federal regulators proposed last week that new tour buses be equipped with shoulder-and-lap seat belt harnesses on all seats, a move that was largely expected by motorcoach operators but raises concerns over liability issues and the potential for a more costly effort to retrofit older buses. The Transportation Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said seat belts might reduce fatalities in rollover crashes by as much as 77%, as TRAVEL WEEKLY writes. Seat belt installations would add about $13,000 to the approximate $450,000 cost of a typical new motorcoach, the NHTSA said.
Subject to a review of public comments, the regulation would take effect three years after adoption.
"Seat belts save lives, and putting them in motorcoaches just makes sense," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in an Aug. 16 statement.
Between 1999 and 2008, 186 people were killed in 54 U.S. motorcoach crashes. The DOT said fatalities are most common when passengers are ejected in rollovers.
The American Bus Association, National Tour Association, Greyhound Lines and Peter Pan Bus Lines are among the entities that said they’re in favor of the proposal, although they all plan to examine it further and are likely to weigh in during the NHTSA’s comment period, which ends in mid-October.
Still, the proposal raises concerns that motorcoach operators might be held liable in the event that a passenger not wearing a seat belt is injured in a crash.
"We don’t have hostesses or bus attendants who are there to monitor, so it’s a little more difficult to make sure everyone’s buckled in," said American Bus Association CEO Peter Pantuso, who added that, in much of Europe, the passenger is liable for his or her injuries that occur when not wearing seat belts.
Additionally, operators expressed concern that regulators might eventually apply such a proposal to existing coaches, many of which have been on the road for two decades or more.
Retrofitting older buses would cost about $40,000 per vehicle in the form of belts, new seats and structural reinforcements for buses that weren’t designed to have harnesses.
"We hope it will be a case of ‚from here on out‘ " for the seat belt regulation, said Christopher Crean, vice president of safety and security at Peter Pan Bus Lines.
Pantuso, whose association represents companies operating about two-thirds of all U.S. motorcoaches, adds that the DOT could also prevent motorcoach fatalities by better monitoring.
In the past decade, there have been three U.S. motorcoach crashes in which at least 15 people were killed, and two of those crashes involved companies that Pantuso said "should never have been on the road."
Regardless, regulators and operators said passenger demand may ultimately spur seat belt additions to motorcoaches. About 10% of Greyhound’s 2,200 buses have three-point harnesses, according to company spokesman Timothy Stokes. About 30 of Peter Pan’s 185 motorcoaches have three-point harnesses, said Crean. "That was dictated by the market," Crean said. "People were asking for it."
Sollte es bei dieser Regelung so sein wie bei vielen anderen, die mit zeitlicher Verzögerung auch in Europa und Deutschland eingeführt wurden, so wären Ferienfreizeiten und Internationale Begegnungen im besonderen Maß betroffen, da diese zum absolut überwiegenden Teil mit Reisebussen durchgeführt werden.