Government Will Require Seat Belts on Motor Coach Buses

7:16 PM, Nov 21, 2013   |    comments
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GREENSBORO, N.C. - They're considered one of the safest ways to travel, but when buses crash, the results can be deadly and devastating. Seventy percent of people killed in rollover bus accidents were ejected from the bus.

In 2013, bus crashes have killed 23 people and injured more than 300 people. Europe has required seat belts on motor coaches since the 1990s. Now, American law will require seat belts in all new motor coaches.

The government says city buses don't need seat belts because they travel at slower speeds and stop and go much more often. School buses, the government says, are already very safe and built in a way that should not require seat belts.

Motor coach companies in the Triad have mixed reactions to the new law.

"Anything to try to better equip them with better safety features is always a benefit for anyone," Holiday Driver Supervisor Aaron Hawks said. "We are fully supportive of it."

Holiday owns more than sixty buses, but right now only a handful have seat belts. Even though the law won't require seat belts until 2016, all new buses the company buys have them installed.

"It's just better to be safe and give that extra level of safety," Hawks said.

At Morgan and Sons, owner Charles Morgan has a much different opinion.

"I haven't had an accident in 30 years," Morgan said. "I don't think it's really needed, no. I don't. I have been out here for a long time driving these buses, so I don't think you need it."

Morgan says buses are strong and stable and the safety features already built in make seat belts unnecessary. However, he understands the law is changing.

"The law requires it. We have to do what the law requires," Morgan said.

The law will only apply to new buses. Older buses won't need to be retrofitted which would be both costly and challenging.

"It requires a lot of changes with the frame and lots of the hardcore elements of the motor coach," Hawks said.

Most buses remain on the roads for twenty-years or more, so it will be quite some time before every bus has a belt. Large motor coach buses can cost as much as $500,000. Seat belts add about $13,000 to the price.

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