Federal Seat Belt Law for Buses to Change in 2016

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COLUMBIA - Large buses traveling between cities will require lap-shoulder seat belts to be installed when a new federal law goes into effect in 2016.

After November 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will require new coaches and large buses to have three-point lap-shoulder belts. The new law will not apply to school or city transit buses.

According to the NHTSA, an average of 21 people in large buses are killed and nearly 8,000 others are injured annually from crashes. The administration believes the addition of seat belts to all large buses could reduce fatalities and injuries by nearly half.

Columbia's Mo-X shuttle service runs locally to and from the Saint Louis and Kansas City airports. 

"We are currently up to the federal standards with lap belts on our buses. Come 2016, we'll be changing out the belts to be up to regulation," said Norm Ruebling, president of Mo-X.

With an influx of people using different transportation methods around the holidays, shuttle services are a common choice.

"Safety is our number one concern, especially around our peak holiday seasons. Our buses are equipped with what's required," said Ruebling.

According to the Missouri Department of Transportation, all seats will have seat belts with under seat retractors for each location. Belts will have a minimum 60" usable length measured from the seat cushion to the buckle and need to include three 12" lap belt extensions with each vehicle.

Megabus is another shuttle service that offers local bus routes from Kansas City to Chicago, stopping in Columbia and Saint Louis.

"Each Megabus has been equipped with lap-shoulder belts since 2006. We pushed for those a few years ago for safety reasons, so I think the federal change is a good one," said Don Carmichael, executive vice president of Coach USA.

Comfort is also a factor for bus riders, like Nicholas Akins, when on the seven hour Megabus ride from Columbia to Chicago.

"I approve of the change and I would definitely wear it, since it's a lot more comfortable," said Akins.

Aditi R. Avhad, 25, a University of Missouri graduate student, was headed to Columbia on Aug. 3, 2012 when a Megabus slammed into a concrete pillar. The crash, which happened on I-55 in Litchfield, Ill., sent more than 40 passengers to the hospital. The Megabus crash reportedly happened due to a flat tire. 

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