NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


September 21, 1999

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National Transportation Safety Board today called for the U.S. DOT to update the design requirements of school buses to provide a complete occupant protection system. In the same report, the Safety Board also made recommendations requiring that future school buses and motorcoaches be equipped with on-board recording systems.

Currently, school buses and motorcoaches are two of the safest forms of transportation in the United States. The Board concluded that due to the small number of real-world accidents involving school buses and the lack of crash tests conducted using school buses, it cannot be determined whether seat belts on the current design of large school buses, which utilizes a 23-year old design, would have reduced the risk of injury to the school bus passengers.

The current school buses, which transport more than 23 million passengers daily, are referred to as "post 1977" school buses because of DOT standards that took effect that year. These vehicles offer substantially improved safety measures over their predecessors. However, annually, approximately nine passengers on school buses sustain fatal injuries.

The Safety Board recommendations are contained in its "Bus Crashworthiness Special Investigation." This year-and-a-half investigation examined six school bus accidents and 40 motorcoach accidents. During a public hearing conducted in 1998, the Safety Board heard testimony from experts from around the world. Also, simulations using the latest technology were used to replicate real-life injuries caused by bus crashes.

One of the major safety measures currently used to protect passengers on school buses and motorcoaches is compartmentalization. However, compartmentalization -- which utilizes seats that are closely spaced together, high backed, well-padded, and designed to absorb energy during a crash -- is incomplete and does not protect passengers during lateral impacts with vehicles of large mass, in rollovers and from ejection. According to the Safety Board, an occupant crash protection system should be developed that would protect passengers in most accident scenarios.

Following are some of the 14 recommendations made by the Board to increase passenger protection on school buses:

to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

1. Once pertinent standards have been developed for school bus occupant protection systems, require newly manufactured large school buses to have an occupant crash protection system that meets the newly developed performance standards and retains passengers, including those in child restraint systems, within the seating compartment throughout the accident sequence for all accident scenarios.

2. Expand your research on current advanced glazing to include its applicability to motorcoach occupant ejection prevention, and revise window glazing requirements for newly manufactured motorcoaches based on the results of this research.

3. Develop and implement, in cooperation with other Government agencies and industry, standards for on-board recording of bus crash data that address, at a minimum, parameters to be recorded, data sampling rates, duration of recording, interface configurations, data storage format, incorporation of fleet management tools, fluid immersion survivability, impact shock survivability, crush and penetration survivability, fire survivability, independent power supply, and ability to accommodate future requirements and technological advances.

to the National Association of Governors' Highway Safety Representatives

4. In conjunction with the Department of Transportation, amend the Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria's bus configuration coding to comply with standard definitions and classifications of buses.

to the bus manufacturers

5. Cooperate with the Department of Transportation in the development of standard definitions and classifications for each of the different bus body types.

The Safety Board's report, "Bus Crashworthiness Special Investigation", its findings, and the text of the new safety recommendations are available on the Safety Board's web site, www.ntsb.gov.

The full report will be available in hard copy for purchase from the National Technical Information Service , 5285 Port Royal Road, Springfield, VA 22161 (800) 553-6847. Please specify report number PB99-917006.

NTSB Media Contact:
Terry N. Williams



The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.