The Center for Auto Safety is the nation’s premier independent, member driven, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy on behalf of all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.


Washington, DC August 25….As the school year begins and children take their first rides back to school on the familiar big yellow school buses, parents throughout the nation will be shocked to learn that Federal regulators have once again failed to order seat belts on all newly manufactured school buses despite a petition from a coalition of leading safety, medical, public interest and parents groups.

“It is common knowledge that seat belts save lives,” said Clarence Ditlow, Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety  “…it is a disgrace that 25 million children ride at risk back and forth to school every school day without this essential safety feature.”

Dr. Arthur Yeager, National Coordinator, National Coalition for School Bus Safety  added “In addition to the obvious role of seatbelts in saving kid’s lives and reducing injuries, daily belt use reinforces the restraint habit learned by children from the first trip home from the hospital. Since driver distraction to monitor unruly kids is a major cause of bus accidents, seat belt use reduces distraction crashes by substantially improving rider behavior.

In rejecting the petition to require belt installation, the National Highway Traffic Safety (NHTSA) argued that belts were not worth the cost, that belt use would not save that many lives.

But Clarence Ditlow countered, “That’s easy for a NHTSA official sitting at a desk in Washington to say but it is a profoundly insufficient explanation to the loved ones of a child badly hurt or killed because belts were not installed on their school bus.”

NHTSA also argued that belts are not needed because the young passengers are safely “compartmentalized” between high back, padded seats that serve to cushion crash impacts.

“That ignores the realities of school bus crashes,” said Ben Kelley, injury policy director for the Trauma Foundation.  He pointed out that in bus accident after bus accident, when the vehicle is hit from the side or rolls over children are thrown violently from the so-called “compartment” and injured. ”Good seat belts guarantee that in vehicle crashes, the occupants – in this case, our children – remain in the compartment and are thus protected from severe injury or death.”

It took NHTSA 18 months to provide its convoluted reply to the petitioners.  During that time, crash after crash demonstrated the need for seat belts on school buses to all but the agency charged with protecting school children.  As a direct result of NHTSA’s disregard for child safety, school children continue to be deprived of seat belts which were mandated for cars in 1966.

Questions concerning the petition denial may be addressed to Arthur Yeager, at (732) 321-0423, or [email protected].


The National Coalition for School Bus Safety (NCSBS), Center for Auto Safety (CAS), Public Citizen (PC), Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS), Consumers Union (CU), KidsandCars.org, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety,  Consumer Federation of America (CFA), SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A., the Trauma Foundation, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the  Orthopaedic Trauma Association, 2safeschools.org, Safe Ride News, the Advocacy Institute for Children, Belt Up School Kids, the Coalition for Child Safety,  Nancy Bauder,  Lynn Brown,  Norm Cherkis,  Ruth Spaulding, and Rhea Vogel