While NHTSA Studies Motorcoach Safety, NTSB Grows ‘Impatient’

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NTSB: Improvements Would Go a Long Way in Protecting Passengers

WASHINGTON, D.C- As Congress debates legislation designed at improving motorcoach safety, a House committee heard testimony fom the National Transportation Safety Board on Monday that recommendations have gone unheeded for the past decade.

Kathryn O’Leary Higgins said that both NHTSA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration have yet to act upon a long list of motorcoach safety recommendations made by the NTSB, some dating back to the mid 1990s. NTSB’s Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements to NHTSA include establishing motorcoach occupant protection standards, revising window-glazing requirements and strengthening motorcoach roofs.

The testimony came during a hearing on NHTSA’s reauthorization.

NHTSA published a final rule on school bus roof strength in the mid 1970s and just last month published similar standards for smaller passenger cars, vans and multi-purpose vehicles weighing under 10,000 pounds. Recently, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently by calling for NHTSA to perform a three-month study that is currently underway.

“These improvements would go a long way in protecting passengers during a crash by keeping them in their seats and providing survivable space inside the motorcoach,” added Higgins. “The Board has grown impatient as we continue to investigate accidents where ejections occur.”

Current legislation before Congress introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) in response to the 2007 fatal crash invovling the Bluffton University baseball team would would require lap/shoulder belts, stronger seats, anti-ejection glazing, stronger roofs, improved fire protection, commercial driver training, and electronic on-board recorders with real-time capabilities. But the American Bus Association and United Motorcoach Association favor a measure proposed by Rep. Bill Schuster (R-PA) that the industry groups say would bring a more scientific approach to the same standards called for by Sens. Brown and Hutchinson.

NTSB’s Higgins also highlighted some of NTSB’s newer recommendations, which call upon NHTSA to develop performance standards for new technologies in motor vehicles, such as collision warning systems and adaptive cruise control as driver aids when faced with distractions or inclement weather.