After a series of high-profile bus crashes in recent years, many people and organizations have pushed to require seat belts on commercial buses. After urging from the National Transportation Safety Board, Congress and other public safety advocates, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations says it is finalizing a proposal to require all new commercial buses to have safety belts installed.

During an interview at the North American International Auto Show in January, 2013, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said a rule requiring safety belts in commercial buses should be issued by the agency “very soon,” in conjunction with other transportation safety regulations, according to The Detroit News.

The issue of requiring seat belts on commercial buses has been debated for decades, and even after a rule is issued by the NHTSA, the agency reported that it will be three years before the requirement takes effect. However, many see seat belts as an important safety measure, especially in reducing the risk of serious injury in rollover accidents, and some bus companies are already buying coaches with safety belts installed.

The NHTSA proposal says requiring seat belts on commercial buses will cost about $13,000 per bus, or about $25 million each year. The agency will not require existing buses to be retrofitted with safety belts, though. The NHSTA also estimates that requiring seat belts on buses could save one to eight lives a year, depending on whether passengers actually use the safety belts once they are available. Individual states can pass legislation requiring bus passengers to use seat belts once they are installed, similar to seat belt enforcement laws pertaining to passenger cars.

The Detroit News reports that an average of 19 people die each year in bus accidents, and from 2003 to 2009, the NHTSA says 133 people were killed in commercial bus crashes. In addition, ABC News states that 60 percent of tour bus fatalities happen when the bus overturns. Seat belts on commercial buses are valuable safety tools, because passengers can reduce their risk of being killed in a rollover accident by 77 percent just by using a lap and shoulder safety belt on a commercial bus, according to the NHTSA.

Although travelling by commercial bus is relatively safe considering the total miles traveled, tragic accidents still do occur. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a bus or rollover accident, contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options.