Hill Bill on Bus Seatbelt Safety Clears Senate Committee as Feds Say State Should Enact Law

March 28, 2017

Senate Transportation Committee Passes Hill Bill Requiring That Bus Passengers and Drivers Buckle Up In Vehicles Equipped With Seatbelts

Unanimous Vote Comes As Federal Safety Board Says California Should Enact Law On Bus Seatbelt Safety

SACRAMENTO -- The Senate Transportation and Housing Committee voted unanimously today in favor of Senator Jerry Hill’s bill requiring the passengers buckle up when riding in buses that are equipped with safety belts. Senate Bill 20 would also apply to bus drivers.

“SB 20 closes a loophole in federal and state safety standards by requiring bus drivers and passengers to wear a seatbelt if a bus is equipped with them,” said Senator Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, in asking for committee members’ aye votes.

“A federal rule went into effect last November that requires certain new buses to have passenger seatbelts, but nothing in the rule mandates that passengers wear them,” Hill noted. “Some bus companies, such as Greyhound, have voluntarily equipped their buses with seatbelts, but again, nothing in current law requires passengers to wear them. Federal regulations require bus drivers to wear seatbelts, but the requirement is not in state law, making it unenforceable. What’s the point of a seatbelt if passengers and drivers aren’t required to wear them?”

The Senate Transportation and Housing Committee’s 12-0 vote sends SB 20 to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration. The legislation applies to commercial and public transit buses equipped with seatbelts, but does not apply to school buses, which are covered by different laws.

The transportation committee’s vote today coincided with the National Transportation Safety Board’s review of a fatal bus crash that occurred in San Jose last year. Two passengers were ejected from a Greyhound bus and died after the vehicle collided with a poorly marked concrete barrier on Highway 101 near Highway 85 and ended up on its side during the rainy early morning hours of January 19, 2016.

In discussing the accident during a hearing in Washington, D.C., NTSB staff said that although the bus was equipped with seatbelts only two passengers were wearing them at the time of the crash and that the two riders who died would not have been thrown from the vehicle, and possibly not have sustained injuries, had they been wearing seatbelts.

The board unanimously accepted the NTSB staff’s report on the crash including its recommendation that California enact a seatbelt safety law requiring bus passengers to wear the devices in vehicles that are equipped with them.

In adjourning the NTSB hearing, Acting Chair T. Bella Dinh-Zarr said, “In fatal crash after fatal crash, our investigators find belts that were not used. We find passengers thrown suddenly across or out of a bus. We find injuries and tragic deaths that could have been prevented with the click of a button.”

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Resources:

View bill text by clicking: Senate Bill 20

NTSB hearing findings and recommendations regarding the 2016 San Jose bus crash, including the archived hearing video, are available here.

Media Contact: Leslie Guevarra, 415-398-3404, leslie.guevarra@sen.ca.gov