|Minnesota Legislature Considers Seat Belts for School-Activity Motorcoaches|
|Written by Ryan Gray|
|Wednesday, 31 March 2010 14:20|
Legislation introduced in January to improve passenger safety on board motorcoaches used for school activity trips could be considered in the state’s upcoming omnibus K-12 education omnibus bill.
House File 331 would require any motorcoach used for school-related activities to be equipped with a lap or a lap and shoulder belt system beginning July 1, 2012. It would only apply to newly manufactured buses.
The law was introduced by Rep. Bud Nornes after a 16-year-old Jessica Weishair was killed at around 5:45 a.m. on April of 2008 as she and her Pelican Rapids classmates were on their way home from a high school band trip to Chicago. One of the two motorcoaches, which departed at 10 p.m. the previous evening, left the road near I-94 and rolled over. Forty other passengers were hospitalized, several with serious injuries.
State law provides that school buses in Minnesota may be equipped with seat belt anchorages. Students riding in a school bus equipped with the restraints must use them, unless parents or guardians opt out by notifying the school district in writing. But the same doesn’t apply for motorcoaches. House File 331 would change that by requiring a motorcoach used for school activity trips to be equipped with an approved lap belt or an approved lap and shoulder belt system installed for each passenger-seating position.
“We consider motorcoaches to be strong safe and luxurious,” Nornes said during a hearing on March 24. “But in a crash they’re not safe like a school bus. Windows pop out; things fall apart.”
Michael Moran, president of the Minnesota Charter Bus Operators Association, testified before the House K-12 Education Finance Committee on March 24 that private bus companies are fearful that a law could hamstring them if the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration passes more stringent motorcoach safety regulations in the near future.
“Our concern doesn’t pertain to seat belts at all but the minimum standard of safety,” Moran told representatives. “Our fear is, if Minnesota comes up with a standard that doesn’t meet federal standards, we’re going to be very limited with this vehicle. We’re going to be limited to just driving in the state of Minnesota.”
FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro has indicated several times this year, including in February at the United Motorcoach Expo in Las Vegas, her intent to make motorcoaches safer for passengers by installing three-point lap/shoulder restraints, improving window retention and strengthening the bus body. NHTSA is currently crash testing motorcoaches in advance of a proposed rule.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 01 April 2010 08:32|