Buses are one of the safest modes of road transport and their use continues to grow. In spite of all the technological advances being implemented to reduce road accident rates, the most important safety feature of all is still being underused: seat belts. The "Report on the Use of Seat Belts in Buses" (Spanish) written by Fundación MAPFRE reveals that just two out of every ten passengers use a seat belt in this form of transport when the bus is equipped with it.
The number of bus passengers grew by 4.3 percent in 2016 according to data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE). Indeed, bus travel is regarded as one of the safest forms of transport due to its low accident rates. According to the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), buses are ten times safer than cars.
There are very few accidents, but when they do happen they tend to cause high numbers of victims. Hence the importance of safety systems such as seat belts, which reduce the probability of serious injuries and fatalities by between 20 and 80 percent; yet despite this they are hardly ever used on buses.
Why use a seat belt on buses?
Using a seat belt on buses is compulsory if they are equipped with them. Buses intended for passenger transport are obliged to have seat belts if they were certified after 20 October 2006 or registered later than 20 October 2007.
Apart from the fact that is is a legal requirement, it should be borne in mind that seat belts stop passengers from being thrown out of their seats, something that can happen even with sharp braking. We should remember that the weight of a person or object is multiplied twenty- to fifty-fold depending on the deceleration that takes place in a collision.
In addition, the dynamic characteristics and high center of gravity of these kinds of vehicles means that they have a propensity to overturn in the event of a sudden change of direction or on leaving the highway.
Furthermore, a seat belt is not only necessary in an accident situation. Just a brusque change of direction or sudden braking can mean the passenger has to be restrained by a seat belt.
It should be borne in mind that the responsibility for using a seat belt in buses lies with the passenger, not the bus driver.
Children in buses
According to Article 117 of Royal Decree 965/2006, all passengers aged over three years old must use the seat belt or other certified restraint system, properly fastened, when traveling on urban or interurban roads if the vehicle is equipped with these systems.
In this respect, minors are allowed to sit in seats over stairwells and those that are not protected by the seat back of the seat in front provided that there is a fixed safety feature (e.g. the barrier that tends to be affixed in the stairwell zone). This ruling is covered in Royal Decree 443/2001.
In the case of seats alongside aisles, if they do not have a seat belt they cannot be occupied by the under-16s. They can be used by minors if the seat belt is a two-point one (i.e. children over the age of three and more than 135 cm in height). If the seat belt is a three-point one, it is necessary to use a booster seat if the child is less than 135 cm tall. If this feature is not used, the child may not occupy this seat (see Royal Decree 965/2006. Article 9).
In the case of the other seats, the use of a seat belt is mandatory if it has been installed (models certified after 2006 and registered after 2007). Order 445/2006 of the Ministry of Industry.
We recommend reading the articles "How to increase your child's safety when traveling by bus" and "Your child's first journey by private bus: learn what services are provided by bus companies".
This is the first approved child seat for buses.
Only 20 percent of people fasten their seat belt
Fundación MAPFRE, with the collaboration of Alsa, Avanza, BDLAS and Esteban Rivas, has undertaken a series of checks and inspections on the use of seat belts in buses on short, medium and long journeys (with the exception of city buses, to which the law does not apply).
All of them were equipped with seat belts and yet only two out of every ten passengers actually fastened them. In the case of interurban buses for short journeys, only 0.7 percent of people fastened their seat belt, while on longer journeys three out of every ten passengers used them properly.
It was noted that on certain routes, before starting the bus, the driver reminded passengers of basic safety regulations within the bus during the journey, putting an emphasis on the importance of keeping the seat belt fastened throughout. Furthermore, on some of these buses a video was screened to reinforce the message.
These notifications were done on 12 buses occupied by 401 passengers, and in this case the usage percentage increased from 24 to 60 percent.
Are you forgetting something?
Realizing the importance of using seat belts on buses, Fundación MAPFRE is instigating a special awareness-raising campaign to promote their use by passengers.
The campaign is being rolled out on the buses of ALSA Avanza and GrupoRuíz. Thanks to the support of the Spanish Bus Transport Confederation (CONFEBUS), any passenger transport company is welcome to join the campaign.
Due to the proven efficacy of making announcements and informing passengers that seat belt use is mandatory, seat backs will now feature reminders about fastening seat belts and a video will be played to emphasize the importance of wearing this crucial safety system.