Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Why are there no seatbelts in buses

So why aren't there seatbelts in US motorcoaches?

There are no seatbelts in US buses because it was not required by US Department of Transportation, for several reasons:

* USDOT, and its sister organization, FMCSA, have concluded that seatbelts do not significantly add safety for the cost they incur. Seatbelts are basically only useful to prevent ejections, which only occurs in overturn/rollovers. Statistics for past 10 years show that rollovers occur roughly 29% of motorcoach crashes that is tracked by FMCSA, and only 50 fatatalies in the past 10 years (as of 2006) due to ejection, and the potential cost of retrofitting seatbelts to buses is in the BILLIONS. The money is better spend elsewhere, such as reduce greenhouse gases and so on.

* Ejection can be prevented by designing better window latches and roof exit latches as well. Remember, there can be up to 61 seats (more if you're dealing with double-decks, articulated buses, and so on) and that's 122 more pieces that needs to be checked daily. For windows and exits, there are just a few on a bus. And no one has yet to design a seatbelt that fits a baby all the way up to a 300+ pound human.

* Buses, esp. motorcoaches with the luggage space under the seats, are high enough off the ground that only impact with a fixed object or vehicle of similar size (big rig, another bus, etc.) would affect the passenger cabin.

* Fire is more of a danger to buses, esp. when those onboard are seniors. In 2005, a bus carrying Katrina refugees caught fire when rear brakes locked. The ensuing fire generated thick black smoke that killed several evacuated seniors from a nursing home despite the best efforts of onlookers and the driver to fight the fire and evacuate the passengers. If there are seatbelts, one can only imagine even WORSE confusion.

While both Europe and Australia have seatbelt requirements, they differ somewhat, and so far USDOT shows no plan to adopt either standard. They believe better window glazing and locking mechanism is more likely to prevent ejection of passengers in case of rollover.

USDOT is also looking forward to recommend roll stability control computers in all larger vehicles, but that is still in study phases.

Drivers are supposed to remember that their vehicle does not turn on a dime, and hitting things doesn't always hurt the bus a lot, and preventing rollovers is more important than avoiding collisions.

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