A new federal safety standard proposed by U.S. safety regulators would reduce the risk of passengers being ejected from commercial buses during rollover crashes and improve survivability in bus crashes.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed the rule in an effort to reduce the number of commercial bus crash passengers and drivers are killed and injured each year. In 2012, the most recent year with complete crash data, there were 54,000 bus crashes on U.S. roads and highways. These bus crashes killed 250 people and injured 12,000 others. More current incomplete data indicates these numbers are steadily climbing despite federal and state crash-prevention efforts.
If passed, the new rule would establish higher performance and structural standards for each new commercial bus. The new requirements are determined by the results of a dynamic test in which the bus is rolled over from a raised platform onto a hard level surface.
Specifically, the rule would require that space surrounding passenger seats be maintained during a crash. NHTSA regulators call this “survivable space.”
Seats, overhead luggage racks, and window glazing must also remain attached to their mountings during and after the rollover test.
The new rule also requires that emergency exits remain closed during rollover tests, but still operable after the test.
NHTSA says that both the performance requirements and the test procedure are modeled closely after European regulations for large buses. U.S. regulators are aiming to improve safety even further by finalizing requirements this year that would mandate stability control technologies in commercial buses, which would greatly improve the prevention of rollovers and other crashes.
“The consequences for passengers in rollover crashes are severe,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “I want passengers to know that when this Department sees opportunities to make their travel safer so that they can more confidently visit their families or get to work, we are going to do just that and we believe this proposal is a step in that direction.”