A new federal safety rule is intended to reduce the number of occupant ejections during motorcoach crashes. According to NHTSA’s Fatal Analysis Reporting System, 78% of motorcoach crashes result in ejections. In non-rollover crashes, ejections account for 28% of fatalities.
According to the agency, motorcoach services include transportation between cities, rural areas, and airports. Motorcoach trips are on average 56,000 miles long. The majority of passengers are senior citizens and children. In 2007, motorcoach services transported a total of 1.9 million passengers. They employed more than 2,000 people.
The NPRM also proposes that all motorcoach occupants wear lap/shoulder seat belts. Various components of the motorcoach are studied in the crash tests. Specifically, NHTSA analyzes the head accelerations and neck injury values of test dummies, seat belt loading and the structural integrity of the floor and seats.
During 1999 to 2008, 54 motorcoach crashes resulted in 186 fatalities. On average, 16 deaths occur to motorcoach occupants each year. The most common type of motorcoach crash is a rollover. The number of fatal motorcoach crashes is shown in Figure 2. Multi-vehicle crashes are the leading cause of fatalities, followed by roadside objects and motorcoach rollovers.
According to NHTSA, motorcoach rollover crashes result in a significant number of injuries and fatalities. As a result, seat belts installed on motorcoaches are a practical and effective safety measure. NHTSA’s research demonstrates that seat belt installations on motorcoaches reduce fatalities and serious injuries by 77 percent. They also prevent occupants from being ejected.
NHTSA and the Department of Transportation (DOT) have published a draft safety rule for motorcoaches. In the report, NHTSA proposes amending the 24/7 Motorcoach Federal motor vehicle safety standard for passenger occupant protection. The proposed rule would mandate lap/shoulder belts for every passenger seat and a driver’s seat.
The proposed rule would require motorcoaches manufactured after 2010 to retrofit with seat belts. However, it would only require motorcoaches with seat belt-ready passenger seats to undergo the retrofit. In addition, it would require extra lead time to install the seat belts. Responding to the proposed rule would help the DOT make an informed decision regarding whether to proceed with the proposal.