Bonus Post: Bus Seat Belts

Sarah is staying in Maine, taking a week of vacation. However, I had to get my butt back to work, so I hopped a bus from Bangor back to Boston--Concord Coach Lines. A couple of nice surprises on the way.

First of all: free WiFi and 120 V electrical power throughout! Took care of some work email, and then some blogging (like the Block Island post).

But the other interesting thing: I don't think I've ever seen seatbelts on a motorcoach-type bus before in the United States.

Kinda cool. After I snapped in, I started poking around on the web--"How did the industry manage to get away with not putting seatbelts on motorcoaches? After all, as stable as they feel while riding, they are still metal boxes hurtling down the highway at 60-70+ mph Even if you don't notice it, physics is still happening, folks." Hey--it was either dorky web research, or watch Fame on the bus entertainment system.

First I found a blog site for the Peter Pan union local out of Western Massachusetts, with an article on the subject "The Case for Lap Seat Belts on Motorcoaches":

For decades, authoritative heads have said that safety belts on busses and motorcoaches are unnecessary due to factors such as "compartmentalization", "monocoque motorcoach construction", high-back seats, and lower G-forces during an average motorcoach collision compared with auto vs. auto.

In Feb. 1999, the United Motorcoach Association issued their "White Paper" report which defended the lack of seat belts on motorcoaches. Although the 3 page article summarizes some of the arguments, it is very thin on facts and details that are available from crash tests and actual crash histories. Taking a closer look at catastrophic motorcoach accidents of the last decades would have tipped the report in favor of seat belts. It is clear, due to the costs involved of retrofitting an estimated 30,000 motorcoaches throughout the USA, that the industry "voice" would lean in the direction of doing nothing.

The post also talks about what happens in bus crashes (and worst of all, rollovers): the great big windows often fail, and the roof can get sheared off, and then the passengers are ejected, often fatally.

I also found newspaper articles from November 2009, stating that NHTSA was planning on boosting motorcoach safety standards, including reinforced roofs, seatbelts, and sensors to determine if the driver has been running over driving time hour limits ("Obama administration proposes seatbelts, other safety measures for long distance buses").

But the most geeky and interesting stuff was a PDF of a presentation from NHTSA: "Seat Belt Testing for Motorcoach Safety". They did full-scale 30 mph frontal collision with a bus, with crash test dummies in a variety of configurations--unbelted, two-point belt, and three-point belt. This was followed up with sled testing. Surprise--seat belts reduce injuries in bus crashes.

Anyway, it seems like seatbelts on buses are a step in the right direction. Sign me up.


At 9:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just saw a charter coach pass buy with an ad on the side featuring a little girl seated with a lap belt and the caption "safety is not an option."

First they fight it, then they compete to be the first to comply.


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