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Advocates still pushing for commercial bus seat belt mandate

In 2007, a tragic bus accident involving members of an Ohio university baseball team riveted Americans’ attention and spurred increased debate over the safety of commercial bus operators.

In that crash, six people from Bluffton University died and 28 others were injured after their bus fell from an overpass in Georgia.

In subsequent years, there has been much talk -- and action -- geared toward making regulatory changes that would mandate commercial buses to implement enhanced safety mechanisms.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, has been at the center of the debate and recently authored legislation that calls for changes, most principally the duty for new commercial carriers -- mostly large buses that are used in tours, charters and to transport intercity passengers -- to be fitted with seat belts.

That perceived need has been both apparent and expressed by many advocates for decades, with the commercial bus industry managing to successfully lobby against any such requirement.

Proponents say that outfitting both existing and new buses with belts would save many lives nationally each year. So far in 2013, 23 people have reportedly died, with more than 300 others being injured, in commercial bus crashes across the country. Sherrod states that requiring seat belt installation is not a big deal, noting that belts “are neither exotic nor complicated, and they are not new.”

The added price for installing belts on a new bus is estimated at about $13,000.

The regulations mandating belts on new buses are still being reviewed, with other regulations concerning strengthened windows and roofs that are due in the autumn of next year still awaiting debate and drafting.

Source: USA TODAY, "Seat belts on commercial buses delayed 45 years," Joan Lowy, Nov. 17, 2013

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