Last week, NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind met with representatives from the six states that require seat belts in school buses—California, Texas, Florida, New York, Louisiana and New Jersey—to discuss the controversial topic.
The meeting was a follow-up to Rosekind’s announcement at the NAPT Summit last fall that his administration was endorsing the installation of three-point seat belts on buses nationwide, if stopping short of a mandate.
Representatives from each of the five states had the opportunity to discuss their respective legislation related to seat belts on buses. The discussion spanned topics such as real-world costs of purchasing new buses equipped with the occupant restraints and operational challenges, as well how seat belts affect emergency evacuations.
“It became clear that identifying commonalities was not an easy task as many of the states are in various degrees of implementation because their laws required funding to be provided before implementation, or in cases like New York, the implementation was voluntary to local school districts,” said Peter Mannella, who represented the New York State Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT) at the meeting, in a communique from the National Association for Pupil Transportation to members.
Mannella added that he asked Rosekind to consider other approaches to student safety in terms of the design and materials of the school bus, and to ensure that NHTSA addresses other student transportation-related safety issues, such as illegal passing. Rosekind responded by saying that he plans to discuss the issue at an upcoming public event.