The National Transportation Safety Board is again focusing its attention on increased seat belt usage in school buses, one of the 10 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements for 2016.
NTSB seeks to strengthen occupant protection in all vehicles, not just school buses, but used the yellow vehicles as an example when highlighting the importance of proper seat-belt use and readily accessible and identifiable evacuation routes on larger passenger vehicles.
“Even seat belts, which have been required on most vehicles for decades, can only save lives when drivers and passengers use them,” said Christopher Hart, NTSB’s acting chairman, during a press conference Wednesday.
The renewed position comes on the heels of a November announcement by NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind, himself a former NTSB board member, calling for three-point lap-shoulder belts on all school buses. But, during his address during a joint session between the National Association for Pupil Transportation and National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation on Nov. 10 in Richmond, Virginia, Rosekind stopped short of announcing pending rulemaking.
Hart added that NTSB will support primary enforcement of seat belt usage “in every seating position in every vehicle that is so equipped” and in all vehicles and age appropriate restraints for children.
In a statement on its website, NTSB added that its crash investigations highlight “the importance of proper seat belt use and readily accessible and identifiable evacuation routes on larger passenger vehicles, such as school buses, motorcoaches, and other commercial vehicles.”
Hart also said on Wednesday that NTSB is calling for the inclusion of crash avoidance technology and data recorders on all highway vehicles. He called data recorders “our most valuable tool” in identifying safety issues during crashes as well as preventing future crashes.
Other safety improvements on the most-wanted list include reducing fatigue-related accidents, which in part are being addressed by FMCSA Hours of Service (HOS) rules. Hart called HOS very critical to “solving the safety puzzle.” NTSB, he added, has pushed for HOS rules for years.
Hart also discussed other distractions such as drunk and drugged driving as well as the influx of motor vehicle technology that NTSB hopes to see addressed this year. Another NTSB Most Wanted safety improvement related to commercial drivers is fitness for duty.