Published on:

Proposed school bus safety rules give manufacturers immunity

We have seen years of criticism of the lack of seat belts and inadequate passenger protection on school buses and other buses. In the next few days, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) is expected to issue a final rule that will require seatbelts for small school buses but only recommends seatbelts for larger school buses. Larger buses will be required to increase the seat back height four inches, at somewhat less cost than adding seat belts.

The rule also includes preemption language that seeks to give blanket immunity to the industry that manufactures buses and their parts. The language would make it much more difficult to recover damages children seriously injured or killed in school bus accidents.

This is just one of numerous regulations that the outgoing administration is seeking to finalize before inauguration day on January 20th, while departing officials seek to feather their nests for new jobs in the industries they have been regulating. Finalizing a regulation before the change of administrations would make it much more difficult for the new administration to change the regulation.

Ken Shigley is a trial attorney in Atlanta, Georgia who has been listed as a “Super Lawyer” (Atlanta Magazine), among the “Legal Elite” (Georgia Trend Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers (Martindale). He served as chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Litigation Institute, is on the National Advisory Board for the Association of Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America, and is a frequent national seminar speaker for the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice. A Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, he was a faculty member for ten years at the Emory University Law School Trial Techniques Program.