A final rule promulgated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration doesn’t go far enough to curb injuries associated with the nearly 2,000 school bus accidents each year. A petition for reconsideration of the rule was filed with NHTSA by the American Association for Justice (AAJ) last month. AAJ is doing a good thing in challenging the agency’s final rule on school bus safety.
The final by rule by NHTSA requires seatbelts for small school buses, but only recommends seatbelts for larger school buses. The agency says adding seatbelts on the larger vehicles would limit capacity and be cost prohibitive. Larger buses will be required to increase the seat back height four inches, just a fraction of the cost estimated for adding seat belts. The rule also includes preemption language that attempts to grant blanket immunity to the manufacturing industry that makes buses and their parts.
The language would make it virtually impossible to seek restitution through the civil justice system for injuries and fatalities associated with school bus accidents. AAJ President Les Weisbrod had this to say:
NHTSA continues to allow corporate responsibility to take a back seat to children’s safety. There is no reason to include preemption language that attempts to limit consumers’ civil justice rights in a rule about school bus safety except to give corporations yet another handout. Our children’s safety should be a first priority in school bus standards, instead NHTSA included an escape clause for corporate responsibility.
Hopefully, NHTSA will become an agency during the Obama Administration that will make motor vehicle safety its top priority. I firmly believe that will happen.
Source: American Association for Justice
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