Questions to Liability Protection of Restraint Systems in Small Bus-Only
(Jan. 6, 2008) - The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is being
urged to take a second look at its final rule on school bus occupant
protection, a number of last-minute petitions against the rule indicate.
The final rule published in October requires lap/shoulder belts on small
buses and establishes performance standards for seat belts voluntarily
installed on large buses. Under the rule, all buses must also have
24-inch-high seat backs and self-latching mechanisms on seat bottom
In one petition for reconsideration, the American Association of Justice, a
national trial lawyer's group, argued that the rule offers too great of
protection for manufacturers against liability.
"NHTSA continues to allow corporate responsibility to take a back seat to
children's safety," said AAJ President Les Weisbrod in a statement.
Public Citizen also recently criticized the rule. In its petition, the
consumer advocacy organization objected to the fact that the seat belt
requirement does not extend to large buses.
"This attempt by the agency to punt this issue violates its safety
obligations under the law and is an obvious effort to assist school bus
manufacturers," Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook wrote in a letter to
Like AAJ, the group wants NHTSA to eliminate a provision that limits how
manufacturers can be sued. The group also asked NHTSA to examine side-impact
and rollover crashes, something that is currently on the National
Transportation Safety Board's most wanted list of safety items for 2009.
Others petitioning against the rule include bus builder Blue Bird, seat
manufacturer M2K and a child safety technician, though the petitions
appeared to be more concerned with several technical aspects of the