Lack of Passenger Seat Belts Remains Safety Hazard

20 Jan, 2020 Chriss Swaney


Sarasota, FL ( -  The recent fatal bus crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike that killed five and injured 60 has safety officials concerned about the lack of seat belts on older tour buses.  

Federal safety investigators are seeking answers to the deadly crash as well as recommendations to make travel safer, according to Jane Terry, vice president of government affairs for the National Safety Council. 

“We like to keep people in their seats because they are much safer there,’’ said Terry. “The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will do an extensive investigation,’’ she added. 

“It will take some time to investigate, but clearly the lack of seat belts on the bus is a serious concern,, ‘’ said Eric Weiss of the NTSB who has visited the crash scene in Mt. Pleasant Township that involved the bus, three tractor trailers and a passenger car.   

Three people – the bus driver and two passengers – died when they were ejected from the bus during the crash. A pair of UPS drivers also died in the pre-dawn crash on a mountainous section of the highway that had been resurfaced in 2019. 

Transportation experts report that a 2013 law that required buses made after 2016 include passenger restraints allowed those manufactured before that time to be grandfathered in, as meeting the requirements. The Z&D Tours bus carrying 56 people from New York to Cincinnati was built in 2006 and did not have any passenger seat belts.

Because most of today’s tour buses do not have seat belts, the National Safety Council favors retrofitting older buses with seat belts when possible.  “If it can be done, it should be done,’’ said Terry.

Terry also said that the NTSB investigation will look at road conditions, bus company safety records, the driver’s experience and any other conditions that may have contributed to the crash.  “We like to see more safety training for all transportation companies and workers,’’ she said.

NTSB officials report that they have issued numerous recommendations to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to have lap shoulder belts on motor coaches and other vehicles, but those recommendations have not been implemented to prevent passenger ejections.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there were 221 fatalities in crashes involving passenger buses in 2017. Only 44 of those who died were passengers on buses. The remainder were in other vehicles involved in crashes with buses.

Industry officials argue that the proximity of padded seats would protect passengers, who would be thrown against them in the event of a collision and would be as safe as they would have been with seat belts.

However, safety officials say that argument doesn’t consider rollovers like the recent one on the Pennsylvania Turnpike where passengers were thrown everywhere because of the lack of seat restraints.


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    About The Author

    • Chriss Swaney

      Chriss Swaney is a freelance reporter who has written for Antique Trader Magazine, Reuters, The New York Times, U.S. News & World Report, the Burlington Free Press, UPI, The Tribune-Review and the Daily Record.

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