Seat Belt Hearings Draw Myriad Safety Experts

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – In two days of hearings, pupil transportation safety advocates from across the nation weighed in on whether school buses should be equipped with seat belts.

More than a dozen representatives of federal agencies, school transportation organizations, manufacturing companies and even medical establishments presented their perspectives to Alabama Gov. Bob Riley’s “Study Group on School Bus Seat Belts.”

Riley created the study group in the wake of the fatal school bus accident in Huntsville in November. The seven panel members are responsible for examining whether adding active restraint systems to the state’s school buses would make children safer.

In the hearings on Monday and Tuesday, discussion covered the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) role in the seat belt issue. Mike Martin, executive director of the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT), reiterated the stance of the letter his association sent to NHTSA last week: The federal government should provide guidance on this issue.

Roger Saul, director of NHTSA’s Office of Crashworthiness Standards, said that it could take the agency several more years to reach a decision on school bus seat belts.

Gov. Riley asked the study group, which includes Alabama pupil transportation director Joe Lightsey, to make recommendations to him and the state legislature by March 2. The first day of the 2007 legislative session is March 6.

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