NTSB Calls For Seat Belt Requirements On All School Buses

May 23, 2018 - 5:53 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Only eight states require seat belts on school buses, and the National Transportation Safety Board says that is not nearly enough.

The investigation follows a couple of fatal school bus accidents a few years ago, and just last week, a 10-year-old girl and her teacher were killed in a school bus crash on Route 80 in Mount Olive, New Jersey.

 “It is the right thing to do. It’s been too long in coming,” said CBS News Transportation Safety Analyst and former NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker. “Finally, the board took a position, where in fact, it does believe that seat belts on buses are going to save lives.”

WCBS 880’s Wayne Cabot said his kids had seat belts on their buses in New Jersey, but only lap belts, and the rule about fastening them was not really enforced. The NTSB is now suggesting to New Jersey and many states that only require lap belts also to require shoulder belts.

“So we’re looking for 50 states to ultimately comply and come up to the 21st century – frankly, the requirements and the proven requirements that safety belts save lives,” he said.

Rosenker said the bus companies and school districts should be able to find the money to comply.

“We’re not talking about significant amounts to upgrade, and frankly, when you buy new school buses, they will come with these new three-point belts,” he said.

Meanwhile, CBS News learned Tuesday that the man who was driving the school bus in the Mount Olive crash was 77 years old, had held a driver's license since 1975. He had a total of 14 license suspensions. Thirteen of the suspensions were for administrative issues not tied to moving violations, while the most recent was for two weeks last December over an unpaid parking ticket, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission said.

The driver has also received eight speeding tickets, a careless driving ticket, and a ticket for an improper turn back in 2010, the commission said. 

Rosenker said a possible age limit of the drivers should be looked at carefully, but improved oversight of drivers is most important – as the NTSB discussed on Tuesday.

“When we looked at the two accidents that occurred when they were doing the study back in 2016 – one in Baltimore and one in Chattanooga – it turned out that one bus driver who was operating the bus was prone to seizures and had a number of accidents,” Rosenker said. “The other bus driver had issues as it relates to his ability to control the vehicle and always being distracted by his cellphone.”