New Federal Ruling will Require Seat Belts on Coach Buses

Updated: 11/20/2013 7:26 PM By: Naomi Pescovitz

Those big charter buses rolling down America's roads and highways will soon have to play by the same rules as cars. Seat belts will be required.

The ruling came down Wednesday from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and applies to new buses starting in November of 2016.

Many companies are already buying buses with belts on board, like Northfield Lines, based in Northfield. Even though they are more expensive, the company has been buying buses with seat belts since 2010.

"It's worth it, it's very well worth it. You've got a customer that is confined to the seat, in case there is an emergency on this vehicle," said Craig Osborne, Director of Safety at Northfield Lines.

The country has 29,000 commercial buses, carrying 700 million passengers a year. On average each year, 7,934 of those passengers are hurt in crashes. 21 people die.

Safety advocates believe seat belts will dramatically improve those statistics.

"It's really that first link in that chain of safety if you are involved in a crash," said Lt. Eric Roeske with Minnesota State Patrol.

"Just like your personal car, you stay strapped to the seat, it's a huge safety," Osborne said.

A big bus or motor coach usually costs between $350,000 and $500,000. Seat belts add about $13,000 to the price.

Transit and school buses are exempt from the ruling.

New rules on bus windows and roofs are due next fall but safety advocates doubt the government will meet that deadline.